Alkermes, the Cambridge, MA based biotech company, said today that a strategically important drug it is developing to help people beat addictions was found in a pair of early-stage clinical trials to be safe and practical as a once-daily pill.
The Alkermes drug, called ALKS 33, was found to be well-tolerated, absorbed into the bloodstream in about 15 minutes, and was able to block the effects of a powerful opioid painkiller (remifentanil) long enough so that the new treatment could be given just once a day. The new Alkermes compound is being prepared for a more rigorous mid-stage clinical trial to start before the end of this year, the company said.
The experimental anti-addiction drug is important to Alkermes (NASDAQ: ALKS) as it attempts to evolve from a company that enhances its partners’ drugs into a company that also has wholly owned compounds with blockbuster potential. Alkermes highlighted ALKS 33 to Wall Street analysts in April for its ability to help patients kick alcoholism, since that condition is thought to be related to other addictions processed through brain reward pathways. The new Alkermes drug is thought to have good potential for alcoholism because can be taken as an oral pill, and unlike most drugs, it gets filtered out of the body via the kidneys, not the liver. That’s important for patients with alcoholism, who often have damaged livers. Alkermes also said the new drug has potential to be more effective at lower doses than naltrexone (Vivitrol), the injectable product it currently markets for alcoholism, which has never been a big seller.