Scientists find first drug to treat sleep apnea

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In recent research led by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, scientists have found a new potential treatment for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition where people stop breathing repeatedly during sleep because their airway is partially or fully blocked.

This groundbreaking study focuses on a drug called tirzepatide, which is already used to treat type 2 diabetes.

Obstructive sleep apnea is not just a problem that disrupts sleep; it can also lead to serious health issues like heart disease and high blood pressure because it lowers oxygen levels in the blood.

Despite being a common condition that affects nearly 936 million people worldwide, the primary treatment has been using machines at night to help keep the airway open, known as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy.

However, not everyone can tolerate this machine, making the search for alternative treatments crucial.

The study conducted by Dr. Atul Malhotra and his team was detailed in a recent edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. It involved two major trials across nine countries including the U.S., Australia, and Germany, and included 469 participants who were obese and suffered from moderate-to-severe OSA.

These participants were divided into groups, some receiving the drug through injections and others receiving a placebo, over a period of 52 weeks.

The results were promising. Tirzepatide significantly reduced the number of times breathing was interrupted during sleep, outperforming the placebo. This suggests that the drug could potentially reduce or even eliminate the need for CPAP machines for some individuals.

The research also indicated that tirzepatide could address both the sleep disorder and obesity simultaneously, offering a dual benefit that could enhance overall treatment effectiveness.

Aside from helping with breathing issues, tirzepatide also showed potential in reducing risks for heart-related conditions and in helping individuals lose weight. The main side effect noted was mild stomach issues, which is relatively minor compared to the benefits the drug could offer.

Dr. Malhotra highlighted that while CPAP machines have been the go-to for handling OSA, their effectiveness heavily depends on regular use, which not all patients can manage.

Tirzepatide offers a more accessible treatment option for those who struggle with mechanical devices like CPAP. The combination of this drug with weight management strategies could potentially improve heart health and alleviate OSA symptoms more comprehensively.

This development in drug therapy is a significant leap forward for OSA treatment, providing a new layer of hope for many who have found existing methods difficult to handle.

It marks a shift towards more personalized care, targeting the underlying mechanisms of sleep apnea more directly and effectively.

As the researchers look to the future, they plan to conduct further studies to understand the long-term impacts of tirzepatide.

This ongoing research could pave the way for a new standard of care, transforming how obstructive sleep apnea, particularly in those diagnosed with obesity, is treated worldwide.

It’s a potential game-changer for millions, promising better sleep, better health, and a better quality of life.

If you care about sleep, please read studies about herb that could help you sleep well at night, and these drugs could lower severity of sleep apnea by one third.

For more information about sleep, please see recent studies that coffee boosts your physical activity, cuts sleep, affects heartbeat, and results showing how to deal with “COVID-somnia” and sleep well at night.

The research findings can be found in New England Journal of Medicine.

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