Thursday, November 02, 2000

Grant aids treatment study for cocaine, heroin addicts

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cocaine and heroin addicts in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia will be asked to participate in expanded treatment studies as part of a five-year, $12 million federal grant awarded this week to the University of Cincinnati.

        The grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse will fund a clinical trials network to promote collaboration among UC researchers and community treatment centers in the four states.

        Those centers serve an estimated 18,000 addicts a year.

        “The concern is that researchers are coming up with new treatments but nobody finds out about them. We have (doctors) still using what they learned about in school 20 years ago,” said Dr. Eugene Somoza, a psychiatry professor at UC and director of the Cincinnati Addiction Research Center.

        “The idea behind this is to try new treatments among the people who would really be using them.”

        If successful, the medications coming out of this research could help thousands of addicts kick heroin and cocaine.

        That in turn could reduce crime and the social costs of filling prisons with substance abusers, Dr. Somoza said.

        For example, one promising medication for heroin addiction, called buprenorphine, appears within months of approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

        If that drug lives up to its promise, it might replace the nation's controversial and underused methadone clinic system.

        At least two treatments for cocaine addiction have shown promise in small-scale clinical trials.

        The new clinical trial network may make at least one of those medications more widely available locally next year, Dr. Somoza said.

        The UC-led research network will be called “the Ohio Valley Node” to reflect its regional scale.

        Six community treatment programs in four states will be working with UC, including the Crossroads Center in Cincinnati.

        UC is one of 11 centers in the past two years to win NIDA grants to establish similar networks nationwide.

        Last year, NIDA awarded grants in New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, and New Haven, Conn.

        This year, grants went to Cincinnati, Detroit, Miami, Denver and Columbia, S.C.

        For UC, this is its third big drug addiction grant in recent years. Earlier this year, UC and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center won a $9.8 million grant to fund clinical trials operations.

        Five years ago, a team of UC researchers won an $8.5 million grant to establish a medication development research unit.

        The local clinical trials network will be launching studies early next year.

        For information, call (513) 487-6662.


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