Getting medicine straight from the nose to the brain

Many migraine sufferers suffer from nausea and vomiting and cannot swallow pills or even if they can swallow them, it takes too long for them to work. Injections is one way to overcome this problem, but nasal spray is a much more pleasant alternative. There are several migraine medications available in a nasal spray form, including Zomig (zolmitriptan), Imitrex (sumatriptan), Migranal (dihydroergotamine), Sprix (ketorolac), and Stadol (butorphanol). Unfortunately, they don’t always work or work inconsistently. Having nasal congestion due to allergies, a cold, or migraine itself often makes these medicines ineffective. Stadol is a narcotic, which can be addictive, while Imitrex and Migranal require delivery into the nose a large volume of fluid, which tends to leak out or gets swallowed, thus reducing their efficacy.

Seattle-based Impel Neuropharma has been working for five years to show it can quickly deliver drugs through the nose, directly to the brain, rather than what happens with the currently available sprays – absorption into the blood stream first and then carried to the brain. Impel, a University of Washington spinoff, recently presented a study of seven patients who used the company’s nose-to-brain drug delivery device, which was able to propel a test protein deep into the upper nasal passages and to the brain stem at an “order of magnitude” greater concentration than a conventional nasal spray. Researchers saw it get delivered to the destination within 10 to 20 minutes. Most nasal sprays don’t propel drugs anywhere close to the upper nasal passages, which is the only place in the body where nerve cells (neurons) are possibly accessible to the outside environment. This device delivers a pressurized, rotational flow of aerosol to reach those neurons.

The company stated that a nose-to-brain delivery device could, in theory, get an effective pain reliever to work more quickly for patients in need of something fast, and do it safely by minimizing the amount that gets absorbed into the bloodstream. It also could be convenient for patients, especially when compared with injectable treatment options.

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