Hints of a heroin vaccine from Mexico

A vaccine against drug addiction is a bit of holy grail in the war on drugs--one shot, and addicts don't get a kick from the drug anymore. Perhaps even one shot, and teens will never get hooked. But nothing so far has made it beyond clinical trials. However, according to reports in the press, the Mexican government has now set its sights on a heroin vaccine, and claims that it could be just 5 years away.

At an Addiction Technology Transfer Network presentation at the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican Health Secretary Salomon Chertorivski announced his nation's government has patented a vaccine for heroin addiction, and researchers are working on vaccines against other drugs, including cocaine and methamphetamines.

Chertorivski told the Latin American Herald Tribune the vaccine, developed at the National Institute of Psychiatry (INP) in Mexico, had gone through studies in rats and was ready to go into human trials. "We can be very proud of our scientists at the [INP] because they've achieved something that hasn't been achieved in other areas of the world," the minister added.

The U.K.'s Daily Mail reported the vaccine triggers an immune response that stops heroin entering the brain and stimulating the opioid receptors, stopping the 'rush' of the drug. María Elena Medina Mora, director of the INP, told the Mail: "The vaccine will not be the solution to all addictions, but is one way to confront the problem, above all in the treatment field. It is hoped that the vaccinated person will have a lower desire to consume the drug because the dose of the vaccine will block the pleasure of taking it."

Back in 2006, the INP published rate data for an anti-heroin vaccine, but it's not clear whether this is the same one. However, this prototype triggered an antibody response against both morphine and heroin--but not other opiate-based medications--and blocked the effects of the drug so rats did not want to take repeat doses.

- read the story in the Daily Mail
- check out the article in the Latin American Herald Tribune
- see the abstract in Vaccine from 2006