Human trials suggest 'rescued' drug could be safer treatment for bipolar disorder

Posted on December 9, 2015

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Ebselen, abandoned as a stroke treatment, has a successful first human trial as scientists aim to re-purpose it as a treatment for bipolar disorder.

A team from Oxford University used a database of 'failed' drugs, found to be safe but ineffective for their proposed use, to identify ebselen as a possible alternative to lithium, the main treatment for people who are bipolar. Ebselen was under development as a treatment for stroke, but was abandoned by its manufacturer in the final phase of clinical trials. However, those trials proved that the drug was safe for use in humans.

Dr Grant Churchill, who led the study, explained: 'Lithium has been used for over 60 years and remains the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder, but suffers from toxicity and has many side effects. It is toxic at only twice the right dose and can cause weight gain and thirst. Long-term lithium use can lead to kidney damage. The side effects also encourage people to stop taking it, which means they can relapse.

'An alternative treatment that has fewer side effects would be safer and would likely have a lower rate of people stopping taking their prescribed drug. Lower toxicity also means fewer medical appointments to get the dose right and fewer visits to monitor for side effects.'

In a small trial, healthy adult volunteers were given a course of ebselen. They carried out a number of tests of brain function, provided blood samples and also went through an MRI scan.

The results showed that ebselen had similar effects on the brain to lithium. The next stage will be a full clinical trial to test the effectiveness of ebselen as a treatment. Should these successes continue, ebselen will be one of only a few examples of a 'rescued drug', where a new use has been found for a failed drug compound.

Category(s):Bipolar, Mood Swings / Bipolar

Source material from University of Oxford