New non-amphetaminic ADHD drug ‘speeds’ into Phase II

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ADHD is believed to affect up to 7% of people worldwide, but some common therapies bear a shocking resemblance to Speed. A new drug from NLS, Mazindol, just entered Phase II and could set a new non-amphetaminic standard.


The treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is hotly debated in the US, were almost 10% of school-age children and up to 5% of adults demonstrate symptoms: are drugs for this disorder overprescribed? Are the symptoms normal hyperactivity for a kid or is medical intervention necessary?

Parents are even more horrified when they discover that Adderall (amphetamine), one of the standard treatments for ADHD, is but one methyl group away from Speed (methamphetamine). NLS, a Swiss pharmaceutical company, is developing a new non-amphetaminic drug called Mazindol that will hopefully prove more nuanced than this treatment. It just entered Phase II clinical trials for ADHD in adults.

In this incarnation, Mazindol is formulated into a controlled release pill. It was previously approved in an immediate release formulation as an appetite suppressant for short-term obesity treatment. Mazindol’s properties as a stimulant make it attractive as a treatment for ADHD, in which dopaminergic and noradrenergic system imbalances seem to play a critical role. Mazindol aims to address this problem by inhibiting reuptake of neurotransmitters in these systems.

Figure 1. Adderall, a mix of amphetamine salts, is a standard treatment for ADHD.
Figure 1. Adderall, a mix of amphetamine salts, is a standard treatment for ADHD.

While the drug is not an amphetamine, Mazindol belongs to the same class of molecule as Speed (methamphetamine) and Adderall (amphetamine), the sympathomimetic amines.  The drugs’ indirect effects of enzyme and reuptake inhibition are of pharmacological interest, but their direct dopamine agonism translates to a high risk of addiction and dependence.

Hopefully Mazindol will have greater indirect effects than direct effects to alleviate this concern and improve on the current standard treatments. If it is successful in these adult trials, the study may expand to include younger patients before hitting the shelves.

The market for neurological drugs is huge, running into billions. Shire currently dominates Europe’s ADHD drug development, but another UK-based company, Heptares, is making inroads; NLS could soon make its debut on the scene with Mazindol.

Featured Image: Frustrated Child (CC2.0, amenclinicsphotos ac/Flickr)
Figure 1: Adderall (CC2.0, Tony Webster/Flickr)


Explore other topics: Neurological disordersSwitzerland

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