Cough trial could give first drug in 50 years

Lung function testing in Southampton NIHR WTCRF

In a UK-wide clinical trial, our NIHR Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit is testing a promising new drug for a chronic cough, as a key partner in the NIHR Translational Research Partnership.

As part of the NIHR Translational Research Partnership (TRP) for inflammatory respiratory disease, we are trialling a new drug as a new treatment for chronic cough. If approved, this could provide the first new cough drug in 50 years and offer hope to the millions of people living with chronic cough for whom few, if any, effective treatments exist.

No effective treatment

Whilst it is not known exactly how many people suffer from a chronic cough, it is thought to affect around 12-15 percent of the population. A cough is considered to be chronic when a patient has experienced coughing for eight weeks or more, with many patients living with the condition for years and even decades without effective treatment. Some patients experience coughing that is so severe it can lead to them vomiting or losing consciousness.

The 12-week trial will involve 200 patients at 47 sites in the UK and US, and will test the drug AF-219, developed by US based biotech company Afferent Pharmaceuticals. The VitaloJAK cough monitor, specially developed by the TRP, will be used to objectively record and count the number of coughs in a 24 hour period. Patient recruitment is now underway and due to complete in the next two months.

AF-219 works by selectively blocking the P2X3 receptors, stopping the mechanism by which certain airway nerves become hyper-sensitised. In an initial proof-of-concept study, the drug reduced the number of times people coughed by 75% compared to placebo.

Working together

The TRP for inflammatory respiratory disease is an NIHR collaboration between nine UK centres, consisting of existing university and NHS hospital partnerships. It is led by internationally recognised investigators in respiratory research, and is one of two NIHR TRPs that provide the life sciences industry with an effective platform for experimental medicine and early development of new drugs and diagnostics. 

Led by Professor Ratko Djukanovic, NIHR Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, Southampton’s branch of the TRP works closely with the UK's leading academic and clinical centres for experimental medicine and translational research.

Posted on Thursday 16 June 2016