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A New Drug Suppresses Opioid-Induced Respiratory Depression

One of the most critical dangers involved in opioid overdose is known as Respiratory Depression.

What is Respiratory Depression?

An online medical dictionary defines Respiratory Depression as the following –

  • “Respiration that has a rate below 12 breaths per minute or that fails to provide full ventilation and perfusion of the lungs.”.

This is a real danger, because people addicted to opiates can very easily overdose causing the potential for brain damage and respiratory depression – leading to death. What if we could reverse this process or combat the respiratory depression caused by opioids? It could potentially save thousands of lives in the process if we could administer a drug to reverse the respiratory depression process caused by opiate-based drugs.

The website HCPLive.com has noted that – “a study in Anesthesiology deemed an intravenous respiratory stimulant named GAL-021 as effective in treating opioid-induced respiratory depression (OIRD)”.

Further information from the study explains the process of how the drug works, as well as the efficacy and results of a human trial conducted to determine the true effects of the medicine:

“...Intended to control breathing patterns, GAL-021 blocks the brain’s calcium-activated potassium channels. In a previous study conducted on animal models, GAL-021 was found to increase ventilatory drive and counteracted opioid-induced respiratory depression, without negatively affecting opioid-related pain relief.

Though serotonin and dopamine receptor ligands were identified as effective targets for improving animals’ respiratory capabilities, these results could not be reciprocated in humans.   For a double-blind, randomized, and placebo-controlled crossover study, a team of researchers at Leiden University and Galleon Pharmaceuticals Corporation administered GAL-021 to 12 healthy males between the ages of 18 and 45 years, who were instructed to fast for 6 hours prior to the drug’s administration.

The effects of OIRD were induced by giving patients low and high-dose alfentanil on 2 separate occasions, which decreased their breathing capacity by 25% to 30%.

Upon being given GAL-021, the researchers noted all of the patients experienced improved respiratory rate and tidal volume, without affecting blood pressure, cardiac output, pain threshold, and sedation.   Additionally, the investigators observed limited side effects in subjects who took GAL-021, with a few patients experiencing nausea and itching...”.

Imagine being able to supply this drug when necessary to chronic pain patients and to also make it available as a subsidized medication to assist in the effort for saving lives for addicts who are taking opioid medications. The idea here is not to recommend a prolonging of addiction to opioids, but rather to assist in the preservation of life and to provide treatment and recovery services for those people who are able to continue living through this potentially life-saving medication.


  1. http://www.hcplive.com/news/New-Drug-Suppresses-Opioid-induced-Respiratory-Depression

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