A Nasal Spray May Help Sleep Apnea

A novel drug in development is showing promising results in treating obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a study published in Chest.

“OSA is one of the most common sleep-related breathing disorders, with an estimated one billion sufferers, and when untreated is associated with major health and safety consequences. While CPAP machines are effective, tolerance remains a major issue for many and other treatments such as dental splints and upper airway surgery don’t always work. This is why we need new treatment options for OSA,” said Professor Danny Eckeart, Director of Flinders’ sleep lab FHMRI: Sleep Health via a press release.

The treatment is designed to prevent the narrowing or collapse of the upper airways during sleep, which is a key mechanism in OSA. The treatment may potentially serve as an alternative for certain people with OSA using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, which can only be tolerated by about half of all OSA sufferers, as the researchers noted.

The study assessed the drug on 12 people with OSA using either nasal drops, a nasal spray or via direct application using an endoscope, as compared with a placebo.

The researchers observed consistent and sustained improvements with respect to patients’ airways staying open throughout sleep, compared to the placebo treatment, irrespective of the delivery method. “Although a small study, our findings represent the first detailed investigation of this new treatment in people with OSA, with promising results,” says study lead author Dr Amal Osman from FHMRI: Sleep Health.

“The drug we tested is designed to target specific receptors that are expressed on the surface of the upper airways, triggering them more easily to activate the surrounding muscles to keep the airway open during sleep. While there’s still a long way to go in terms of clinical testing and development, our study shows targeting these receptors may be a promising avenue for future treatments.”