A new study from Flinders University has shown a drug previously used to treat depression can reduce obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) severity.
“Obstructive sleep apnoea can be a debilitating disease, causing poor quality sleep at night and sleepiness during the day,” says study lead author Dr Thomas Altree.
“Recent research found a combination of the medicines reboxetine and oxybutynin, which were both previously used for unrelated conditions, could be an effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnoea but can cause side effects.
“We wanted to see if reboxetine on its own could be effective and assess exactly how it changes breathing during sleep.”
The team ran a double blind, placebo controlled, randomized, multicentre cross-over trial with 16 people who had OSA. They tested single doses of reboxetine compared to a combination of reboxetine and oxybutynin or placebo.
“We found the drug reduced the number of sleep apnoea events per hour and also improved oxygen levels, while the addition of oxybutynin didn’t cause additional improvements.
The team’s findings present the first evidence that reboxetine alone reduces OSA severity, and provides further insight into the role of norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors on upper airway stability during sleep.
While not yet identifying a cure, the authors say the study opens up further avenues for the development of future drug treatments targeted at the huge number of people unable to tolerate current sleep apnoea therapies, such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
Thomas J. Altree, Atqiya Aishah, Kelly A. Loffler, Ronald R. Grunstein, Danny J. Eckert. The norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor reboxetine alone reduces obstructive sleep apnea severity: a double blind, placebo controlled, randomized, cross-over trial. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.10256
Flinders University. “Promising medication for sleep apnea.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 October 2022. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/10/221006121209.htm>.
Photo by Hernan Sanchez