Medications development: successes and challenges

Pharmacol Ther. 2005 Oct;108(1):94-108. doi: 10.1016/j.pharmthera.2005.06.010.


The National Institute on Drug Abuse has funded a medications program that has concentrated on the development of medications for opiate and cocaine dependence. Levomethadyl acetate (LAAM) and buprenorphine and buprenorphine/naloxone sublingual tablets were developed in conjunction with pharmaceutical partners and approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The remaining challenges for medications development for opiate dependence involves Phase IV studies in special populations, for example, pregnant opiate-dependent patients, and to translate neuroscience-based findings into treatments. Several marketed medications have shown initial efficacy to reduce cocaine use in well-controlled clinical trials. Disulfiram has been shown to reduce cocaine use in several clinical trials, while baclofen, modafinil, naltrexone, ondansetron, tiagabine, and topiramate have shown preliminary efficacy in initial clinical studies. Confirmatory studies of many of these medications is underway. More recently, the NIDA medications program has evaluated medications for their ability to reduce methamphetamine use. To date, no medications tested have shown efficacy to reduce methamphetamine use. Both marketed medications and investigational agents will be tested. Finally, NIDA has begun to test medications for efficacy to reduce cannabis use. Initial studies are underway. Both agonist and antagonist approaches will be evaluated. Additionally, medications will be tested in cannabis-dependent patients for the management of insomnia, withdrawal, and concurrent depression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Design*
  • Humans
  • Methadone / administration & dosage
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation


  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Methadone