A compound found in many fat burners and also in chocolate will soon be used in a cough medicine being developed in the U.K., researchers say. Scientists are almost finished conducting clinical human trials on a drug for a persistent cough containing theobromine, which is found in cocoa. The British developers of the medicine, called BC1036, say it could be ready for sale within two years, according to the BBC. The reason for the new cough treatment is a fear about children taking the existing remedies, which contain codeine, a potentially addictive opiate-based narcotic. This fall, the Medicines and Health products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) — the U.K.’s equivalent of the Food and Drug Administration — issued a warning that those under 18 years old shouldn’t use thecodeine cough suppressants because the risks were greater than the benefits. BC1036 would be for persistent coughs, meaning those lasting longer than two weeks, the BBC said. It will be flavorless, so even chocolate-haters will be able to stomach it. Pulmonologist Dr. Len Horovitz is skeptical that the new drug will work.
“I don’t think it’s going to be as effective as what we have now,” Horovitz, who practices at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, told AOL Health. “When it comes to codeine for cough suppression, you can’t beat it.”
SEEK, the private company developing the new medicine, says theobromine works by inhibiting the activity of the vagus nerve, which plays a role in a bad cough — but Horovitz doubts the validity of that claim. Theobromine is a methylxanthine derivative and does something completely different, he explained.
“It opens up the breathing tubes, but has nothing to do with cough suppression,” he said. “It could be a very good daytime drug by getting the mucus out of your lungs. But beyond that, it’s not going to suppress your cough at night.”
Horovitz believes that BC1036 would work better as an expectorant, a drug that encourages coughing by loosening mucus and allowing the cold sufferer to spit it out. He dismissed the fears about the dangers of codeine for patients under 18, but said it might be greater cause for alarm in the U.K., where the regulatory system for prescription drugs can be more lax.
“It’s being overplayed,” he told AOL Health. “What are you going to do if a kid has a broken leg? The doctor has the leash on certain prescriptions. But in England, you can walk into a pharmacy and get just about anything, so I can understand their concern.”
The final stages of tests on the new drug are scheduled to start in the coming months.
“I am very excited to announce the progression for the late-stage development of BC1036, which has the potential to dramatically impact the treatment of persistent cough and could greatly benefit the quality of life of persistent cough sufferers,” the BBC quoted Manfred Scheske, SEEK’s CEO of consumer health, as saying.