Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can make you tired and sleepy during the day. It can also cause high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, strokes and even sudden death. The best treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). It pumps air into the throat, and keeps the throat open, so you can breathe normally.
Adherence or compliance rates with CPAP are rather low. Nationwide, only about 59% of patients prescribed CPAP use it enough. Enough use is defined as use for 70% or more nights for at least 4 hours a night. Compliance is much better among our patients (88-90% as published in peer-reviewed journal articles). This is because we work very hard with patients and we treat the sleep impairment caused by CPAP use. However, many patients would like to stop using CPAP if there was an easier alternative. Patients often ask if there is a medicine they can take instead of CPAP.
There are currently no medicines approved for treatment of OSA. However, there are medicines with are being looked at for use in OSA. One medicine combination increases norepinephrine and decreases acetylcholine in the brain. Norepinephrine and acetylcholine are signaling chemicals in the brain. Another combination uses a chemical found in marijuana along with a medicine that increases breathing. We are about to begin Clinical Trials using different investigational medicines for OSA.
To qualify for these trials, a patient would have to be previously diagnosed with sleep apnea, have results of sleep testing available, and have never tried CPAP, been unable to tolerate CPAP, or not used CPAP for quite a while (3 months). Patients must also be generally healthy with no uncontrolled significant medical or psychiatric disorder.
If you or someone you know is interested in a clinical trial using medicines for OSA instead of CPAP, please contact us at 586-254-0707.