A Brazilian-developed vaccine against cocaine addiction is almost ready for public distribution. The drug, named Calixcoca, “would block the effects on the brain,” according to the researchers behind the project.
What we are looking for is to generate a biological that can block the effects of cocaine and crack. And that can help consumers to get out of the vicious circle of drugs, the scientists also pointed out.
The project has already won the €500,000 Innovation in Health Latin America prize, funded by the pharmaceutical company Eurofarma to promote innovative and high-impact solutions.
Calixcoca is said to be a therapeutic vaccine that helps the patient produce antibodies that can attach to the drug and prevent it from entering the brain,” psychiatrist Frederico Garcia, coordinator of the project at the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG) explained.
In other words, the medication would block the gratifying sensation produced by cocaine when it activates the brain region known as the reward area. By breaking this cycle, which leads to compulsion for the drug, the vaccine will increase the chances that addicts who want to remain abstinent will be able to do so, the physician also pointed out.
In animal trials preceding the next stage with humans, the researchers visualized significant production of antibodies against cocaine, which also included very few side effects.
Calixcoca has protected rat fetuses from cocaine, a result that, if replicated in humans, could help in the treatment of pregnant women with addiction problems. Although there have been similar research projects in the United States, these could not be continued due to insufficient results, Garcia also noted.
In the case of Calixcoca, the first project of its kind in Latin America, clinical trials ”show that the vaccine is effective and [if] it gets the registration of the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa), it would become the first anti-cocaine and anti-drug vaccine on the planet to be used as a medicine,” he went on.
Because it is made from chemical compounds designed in the laboratory (against biological compounds in other vaccines), the antigen would also be the least expensive to produce. It would not even require a refrigeration chain to be transported.
There is no specific registered treatment for cocaine or crack dependence. Today, psychological approaches, social assistance, and ultimately hospitalization are used, the psychiatrist argued.
Short-term effects of cocaine use include, among others: extreme energy and happiness, mental alertness, hypersensitivity to light, sound, and touch, irritability, and paranoia (extreme and unjustified distrust of others). Other effects include a restriction of blood vessels, dilation of the pupils, nausea, increased body temperature and blood pressure, accelerated or irregular heart rate, tremors, and muscle spasms, as well as restlessness or uneasiness.