Delivery technique could ease side effects of corticosteroids

By Pat Hagan

LONDON (Reuters Health) – A new technique that involves chemically attaching corticosteroids to vitamin E could help to alleviate some of the drugs' side effects in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, according to a UK researcher.

Dr. Declan Naughton, from the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton, said laboratory experiments suggest the vitamin "envelope" can keep the drug from working until it comes into contact with hypoxic tissue in the arthritic joint.

The technique, described in a paper published in the journal Advanced Drug Delivery Reviews, is based on the observation that tissue affected by certain diseases–including rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and some cancers–is hypoxic. The hypoxia breaks the bonds between the vitamin and the corticosteroid, activating the drug.

"I'd been looking for a system to deliver corticosteroids but the problem is what to do with the envelope," Dr. Naughton said in an interview with Reuters Health. ''Patients may be on these drugs for life so you cannot have any toxicity with the envelope–and that's the hard bit.'

Dr. Naughton has also used the system to attach vitamin E to aspirin.

''Since the Nobel prize was awarded 51 years ago for the discovery of steroids and their use to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the race has been on to overcome the related serious side-effects,' Dr. Naughton said in a statement. ''The use of low oxygen levels in the joint for vitamin-based drug targeting is a real opportunity to bypass the side effects that currently limit the use of these amazing drugs."

SOURCE: Advanced Drug Delivery Systems; 53; 2; 229-233

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