l-tetrahydropalamatine: a potential new medication for the treatment of cocaine addiction

Future Med Chem. 2012 Feb;4(2):177-86. doi: 10.4155/fmc.11.166.


Levo-tetrahydropalmatine (l-THP) is an active constituent of herbal preparations containing plant species of the genera Stephania and Corydalis and has been approved and used in China for a number of clinical indications under the drug name Rotundine. The pharmacological profile of l-THP, which includes antagonism of dopamine D1 and D2 receptors and actions at dopamine D3, α adrenergic and serotonin receptors, suggests that it may have utility for treating cocaine addiction. In this review, we provide an overview of the pharmacological properties of l-THP and the evidence supporting its development as an anti-addiction medication. The results of preclinical work demonstrating that l-THP attenuates cocaine's reinforcing/rewarding effects and reinstatement in rat models of cocaine relapse are summarized, and the outcomes of studies demonstrating efficacy in human addicts are described. Finally, an overview of the safety profile of l-THP is provided and challenges associated with US FDA approval of l-THP are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Berberine Alkaloids / therapeutic use*
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal*
  • Humans


  • Berberine Alkaloids
  • Drugs, Chinese Herbal
  • tetrahydropalmatine