Addicted to prescription drugs? There’s a prescription drug for that

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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A new prescription drug intended to combat prescription drug addiction is currently in clinical trials, and an ambitious pharmaceutical company is hoping to push the drug into the U.S. marketplace, where it could have billion-dollar potential.

An ongoing clinical trial in New York funded by the National Institutes for Drug Abuse will attempt to discern the safety and effectiveness of Ibudilast, according to SmartPlanet.

Ibudilast is intended to stifle opioid cravings associated with prescription drug addiction. It is currently on the market in Japan.

The San Diego-based pharmaceutical company MediciNova, which specializes in acquiring “novel” treatments, owns the rights to Ibudilast through “strategic alliances” with Japanese pharmaceutical companies.

If approved by the FDA, the drug could go on sale in the U.S. in approximately five years.

However, considering the history of similar drugs, Ibudilast may have a tough time getting approved.

Though methadone and the nicotine patch are two examples of drug treatments widely used to treat forms of drug addiction, the push to produce addiction-killing pharmaceuticals is relatively new. The drug Campral, intended to combat alcoholism, was approved by the FDA in 2004. The related drugs Subutext and Suboxone, remedies for opiate addiction, were approved by the FDA in 2002 but have garnered harsh skepticism from medical professionals.

Suboxone abuse is becoming a minor epidemic among recovering heroin addicts. The Drug Enforcement Agency has been tracking sales of the drug since 2005. “Suboxone has become a prescription medication that’s being diverted by the very addicts it was formulated to help,” the Burlington Free Press reported last year.

Nevertheless, Suboxone sales reportedly topped $1.2 billion in the U.S. in 2011. MediciNova cites that figure as a commercial goal for its own product, Ibudilast.

MediciNova currently has eight product candidates, six of which are in the clinical stage, but has yet to successfully place a product on the market. Ibudilast is one of the company’s two “prioritized product candidates,” along with an asthma treatment.

Despite MediciNova’s ambitious goals, investors have yet to be convinced. The company’s NASDAQ stock price closed Monday at $1.80.

MediciNova could not immediately be reached for comment.

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