A new study shows that the combination of two existing medications can reduce the severity of sleep apnea by at least 30%.
The study, published in The Journal of Physiology, involved 12 people with sleep apnea between the ages of 13 and 52. The patients participated in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study. Led by Danny Eckert, professor, and director of the Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health at Flinders University in Australia, the study reused two existing medications to test their effectiveness in controlling the condition.
Previous research showed that two drugs, reboxetine, and hyoscine butylbromide, were able to keep muscles active during sleep in patients without sleep apnea. The 2 drugs also improved their ability to breathe.
Improved breathing capacity
In adapting the drugs, the researchers sought to determine how and if reboxetine and butyl bromide could successfully address the root causes of sleep apnea. The scientists sought to balance the electrical activity of the muscles around the airways, prevent throat closure during sleep, and improve the regulation of carbon dioxide and breathing during sleep.
The results of their experiments showed that these drugs helped increase muscle activity around the participants’ airways and could reduce the severity of the patients’ sleep apnea by up to a third.
“Current treatment options for people with sleep apnea are limited and can be a painful journey for many,” Prof. Eckert points out. “We will then investigate the long-term effects of these and similar drugs. We will look at whether we can get the benefits of one drug without having to use both,” he adds.
1 in 15 people is affected in the US
Sleep apnea is a disorder of the upper respiratory tract characterized by stops in breathing that can last more than 20 seconds. The airways extending from the back of the nose to the throat close repeatedly during sleep, limiting oxygen delivery and disturbing sleep.
According to Ineedbettersleep.com in the US 1 in 15 persons suffers from sleep apnea. The number of car accidents is seven times higher in people with sleep apnea. It is estimated that more than one in five people with type 2 diabetes has sleep apnea.
Patients with untreated sleep apnea are also more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and are also at higher risk of dementia and depression.
This would be welcomed news for the millions of sufferers if this study leads to the use of these 2 drugs for the treatment of sleep apnea.