Drugmakers looking to bring back hydrogen to deliver drugs over longer periods

Drugmakers like Teva ($TEVA) are looking to bring back hydrogen as a possible delivery mechanism for drugs as the heavier element could slow the breakdown of compounds in the body and allow the patients to take medications on a less frequent basis.

The FDA is currently reviewing what could be the first medicine made with deuterium, or heavy hydrogen, Bloomberg reported. The drug is being tested by Teva to treat symptoms of Huntington’s disease, and additional data are expected to be submitted to the regulatory agency later this month.

The company told Bloomberg it’s confident the drug could be available to patients next year. Huntington's disease is an inherited disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, resulting in a gradual decline in motor control, cognition and mental stability. Currently, there are no approved drugs to treat Huntington’s, although there are medicines that help with symptoms.

“This is a new concept, and FDA approval will make it a lot clearer for the field,” Graham Timmins, an associate professor at the University of New Mexico who has studied the technology, known as deuteration, told the news service.

Deuterium is considered an armored hydrogen, which makes it more difficult for enzymes to break down. The result is it and the compounds attached to it remain in the body for longer periods.

An FDA approval of Teva’s hydrogen delivery system “would show the breadth of possibilities” of the element, Roger Tung, CEO of Concert Pharmaceuticals, told Bloomberg. Concert is also looking into treatments that use deuterium.

 “Deuterium provides unique properties that cannot be attained in any other way,” he said.

Last week, Teva announced it would collaborate with Intel to develop a wearable device to monitor patients with Huntington’s.

- check out the Bloomberg story

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