Acid reflux drug hits market this year

MU researchers have developed a treatment that takes effect in 30 minutes.
Monday, September 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:50 p.m. CDT, Saturday, June 28, 2008

MU researchers have created a new delivery system to fight gastroesophageal reflux disease, and a California pharmaceutical company will soon bring that development to market.

The delivery system — how the drug is absorbed into the body — is part of a drug called Zegerid, a new “proton pump inhibitor.” PPIs are a type of drug that fights the disease commonly known as acid reflux disease by shutting down the system that creates acid in the stomach.

Acid reflux affects one in every 20 people and can result in severe ulcers and esophageal cancer.

“Zegerid is unique, because it combines immediate neutralization of stomach acid with rapid and sustained inhibition of acid production,” Tom Sharpe, director of the campus Office of Technology and Special Projects, said in a statement from the MU News Bureau.

PPIs currently have an outer coating to protect them from stomach acid before they move on to the intestines, where they are absorbed into the blood. This is a problem with certain patients.

“Some trauma patients can’t swallow pills because they have tubes in their throat. In the end, it was a little bit of baking soda and a lot of ingenuity that made the difference,” Sharpe said in the statement.

Zegerid aims to solve those problems. It combines a form of omeprazole, commercially known as Prilosec, with a buffer complex that not only allows for use by patients with feeding tubes but also for faster absorption.

“The drug immediately buffers acid in the stomach,” Sharpe said in an interview. That permits Zegerid to be absorbed in the stomach, rather than the intestines and means the drug can take effect in 30 minutes. Normal PPIs, which are absorbed in the intestine, reach peak blood levels in one and a half to three hours.

Zegerid also gives a full therapeutic effect in the first dose, Sharpe said. “The other drugs on the market, they require several doses before you get a full therapeutic effect.”

PPIs are some of the best-selling drugs in the world, representing $13 billion dollars in annual sales in the United States alone. MU researcher Jeffrey Phillips worked for several years with other staff on the drug, with slow progress because of resource constraints. Then in 2001, he and Sharpe teamed with Santarus, the pharmaceutical company.

“Once we licensed it to Santarus, progress sped up,” Sharpe said.

No one from Santarus could be reached for comment, but its Web site says the drug is being prepared for release. The powder form of Zegerid was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June, the Web site says, and Santarus expects to have it available by the end of the year.

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