Drug-induced respiratory depression is a life-threatening condition caused by analgesic, hypnotic, and anesthesia medications. Although it is a leading cause of death from the overdose of some classes of abused drugs, respiratory depression also arises during normal, physician-supervised procedures such as surgical anesthesia, post-operative analgesia, and as a result of normal out-patient management of pain from cancer, accidents, or illnesses.
The majority of adverse events occurring with these drugs take place during the dose adjustment period, when two or more central nervous depressants are taken together, or when patients take prescribed drugs in ways not intended by their physician.
Although only 0.5%-1.2% of total adverse drug events caused by prescription medications are respiratory in nature, these serious side effects account for 25%-30% of drug-induced deaths. Opiates and barbiturates are the primary drugs classes responsible for these effects. Opiates include the standard pain-killing drugs morphine, fentanyl, and codeine, as well as related products vicodin, hydrocodone, and oxycontin. Barbituates comprise the sedative drugs amobarbital, aprobarbital, butabarbital, pentobarbital, and others. Sleeping disorders are another common predisposing factor for respiratory depression, in this case known as sleep apnea.
Currently, the only way to counter opiate-induced respiratory depression is to administer opiate receptor antagonists, drugs that block the effectiveness of opiate analgesia. While this approach may prevent a serious side effect or even death, it dramatically reduces the effectiveness of drugs administered for management of severe pain.
Researchers at the University of Alberta (Edmonton, AB) and Cortex Pharmaceuticals (Irvine, CA) believe that AMPAKINE drugs may provide protection from drug-induced respiratory depression, while simultaneously allowing the sedative or analgesic to continue working as it
Contact: Mark Varney