In DepthBiomedicine

Drug pair shows promise for treating sleep apnea

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Science  21 Sep 2018:
Vol. 361, Issue 6408, pp. 1174-1175
DOI: 10.1126/science.361.6408.1174

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For decades, scientists have searched in vain for drugs to defeat obstructive sleep apnea, the risky and increasingly prevalent condition in which a person's upper airway repeatedly collapses during sleep, causing them to briefly stop breathing dozens or hundreds of times each night. Now, a new drug combination has reawakened hopes of treating sleep apnea with medication instead of the cumbersome breathing machines that saddle sufferers with a mask and headgear at night. The pills, atomoxetine and oxybutynin, have long been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating unrelated conditions. But when a team led by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston gave them before bedtime to 20 patients, their number of hourly airway obstructions fell dramatically, from a median of 28.5 to a median of 7.5. "That's actually unbelievably exciting," says Sigrid Veasey, a physician-researcher who studies sleep at the University of Pennsylvania who was not involved with the study.