The findings, published online as a letter to the editor in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, said Exendin-4 is already Food and Drug Administration-approved for diabetes. Exenatide is marketed as Byetta, an exenatide injection, a twice-daily injectable treatment for type 2 diabetes, and Bydureon, exenatide extended-release for injectable suspension, a once-weekly injectable treatment for type 2 diabetes.
"What we have demonstrated is that a brain mechanism already known to be therapeutic for the treatment of diabetes also appears to be implicated in at least certain types of drug addiction," said Gregg Stanwood, assistant professor of pharmacology at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and Vanderbilt Brain Institute. "We suspect that this is a general mechanism that will translate to additional drugs of abuse, especially other stimulants like amphetamine and methamphetamine."
Lead author, Devon Graham, a postdoctoral fellow in pharmacology, injected animals with Exendin-4, which is a long-lasting version of the natural peptide hormone GLP-1, and observed a significant blunting of the rewarding effects of cocaine. The study reported no evidence of negative side effects or addiction to Exendin-4 treatment.
The findings are not expected to be a magic bullet where a person could simply take this drug and their addiction goes away, but hopefully a medicine like this, in combination with social and behavioral support, would help an addict on the road to recovery, Stanwood said.