APR 15, 2022 5:30 AM PDT

First Drug for Sleep Apnea Shows Promise in Patients

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

A new drug for sleep apnea could reduce breathing pauses during sleep by up to 41%. The corresponding study was published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine

Currently, patients with sleep apnea are either treated with oral appliance therapy- a dental retainer-like appliance that supports the jaw in a forward position to keep the airway open- or a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask. 

"These therapy options take time to get used to and, since they frequently are perceived as intrusive or bulky. Insufficient user time is therefore common. If we develop an effective drug, it will therefore make life easier for many patients and, in the long run, potentially also save more lives," says Dr. Ludger Grote, Senior Lecturer at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.

In the present study, the researchers sought to see whether carbonic anhydrase (CA) inhibiting drugs could reduce sleep apnea. CA is an enzyme that regulates levels of carbonic acid and carbon dioxide in the body and is already used to treat glaucoma, epilepsy, and other disorders. 

For the current study, the researchers recruited 59 patients with moderate or severe sleep apnea. They were randomly assigned to receive either 400 mg or 200 mg of the CA inhibitor or a placebo. The study ran over four weeks. 

The researchers found that both doses of CA inhibition significantly reduced pauses in breathing. The 400mg group experienced a 41% decline in breathing pauses- from an average of 55.3 to 33.1, while the 200mg group experienced a 32.1% decline- from 61.2 to 40.7. 

The researchers further noted that none of the patients experienced serious adverse side effects; however, six patients in the 400mg group withdrew from the study due to adverse events. They also noted that side effects were rare, although more commonly experienced on the higher dose, and included headache and breathlessness. 

As CA inhibitors are already available on the market, the researchers say they may achieve approval for sleep apnea too relatively soon. They say, however, that before this, further research into their ability to treat the condition is needed. 


Sources: American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Science Daily


About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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