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Federal Government Pushes Development of Addiction Vaccines

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The federal government wants to leverage interest and investment in vaccine development to get pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs that could “inoculate” people against addiction to cocaine, nicotine, and other substances, Reuters reported Oct. 20.

“There is an enormous amount of research and development in vaccines for cancers and a wide variety of disorders,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), pointing to the success of drugs like Gardisil, a vaccine against cervical cancer. “We can take advantage of those developments.”

NIDA has funded clinical trials to test vaccines, including a $10-million grant to NAbi Pharmaceuticals for research into a nicotine-addiction drug called NicVAX. The agency also supported Baylor College of Medicine researchers who recently published a study on an anti-cocaine vaccine.

Pharmaceutical firms are projected to make $4.6 billion worldwide on smoking-cessation products by 2016, and experts say addiction vaccines have the potential to become a $2-billion business. However, the stigma attached to addiction makes developing such vaccines less appealing to drug companies, said Volkow, as does the potential for liability lawsuits.

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