- A radical scheme to vaccinate children against future
drug addiction is being considered by ministers, The Independent on Sunday
- Under the plans, doctors would immunise children at risk
of becoming smokers or drug users with an injection. The scheme could operate
in a similar way to the current nationwide measles, mumps and rubella vaccination
- Childhood immunisation would provide adults with protection
from the euphoria that is experienced by users, making drugs such as heroin
and cocaine pointless to take. Such vaccinations are being developed by
pharmaceutical companies and are due to hit the market within two years.
- The Department of Trade and Industry has set up a special
project to investigate ways of using new scientific breakthroughs to combat
drug and nicotine addiction.
- A national anti-drug immunisation scheme is one of the
proposals being put forward by the Brain Science, Addiction and Drugs project,
an expert committee of scientists appointed by the Government earlier this
- Professor David Nutt, a leading government drugs adviser
who sits on the committee, told the IoS that anti-drug vaccines for children
are likely to be among the panel's recommendations when it reports next
- Professor Nutt, head of psychopharmacology at the University
of Bristol and a senior member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of
Drugs, said: "People could be vaccinated against drugs at birth as
you are against measles. You could say cocaine is more dangerous than measles,
for example. It is important that there is a debate on this issue. This
is a huge topic - addiction and smoking are major causes of premature death."
- According to the Government's own figures, the cost of
drug addiction - through related crime and health problems - to the economy
is £12bn a year. There is a strong incentive for the Government to
find new ways to halt spiralling addiction. Last week, the IoS revealed
that cocaine use had trebled in Britain with increasing numbers of users
switching to highly addictive crack cocaine.
- Scientists are already conducting trials for drugs that
can be used by doctors to vaccinate against cocaine, heroin and nicotine
- Xenova, the British biotechnology firm, has carried out
trials on an anti-cocaine vaccine which showed that 58 per cent of patients
remained cocaine-free after three months.
- Meanwhile, experts at the Scripps Research Institute
in San Diego, California, have developed a super-virus, harmless to humans,
which produces proteins that can block or reduce the effects of cocaine.
- The team at Scripps tested the virus on rats by injecting
it into their noses twice a day for three days.
- On the fourth day, the rats were given a shot of cocaine.
The researchers found that cocaine had more effect on the rats not injected
with the virus than those that were. Scientists hope that the virus will
help stop the cravings experienced by cocaine users for the drug by blocking
the pleasure they normally associate with cocaine. This anti-drug medication
is expected to be available to users within the next two years in the form
of a nasal spray.
- Proposals to introduce a national anti-drug vaccination
programme have been given a cautious welcome by MPs and experts.
- Ian Gibson, head of the Commons Science and Technology
Committee, said the Government would have to carry out public consultation.
"There is no reason to think this would not be a starter or beneficial,"
said Dr Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North. "But ... proper consultation
with the public needs to happen well in advance."
- David Hinchliffe, chairman of the Commons Health Committee
and Labour MP for Wakefield, said: "This could have a huge impact
on society in terms of preventing damage to others and dealing with addicts.
[But] the ethical perspective does need to be looked at closely."
- The National Treatment Agency, which manages drug-addiction
programmes, welcomed any new ways of treating addiction but said there
was no "magic bullet".
- © 2004 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/crime/story.jsp?story=544439
- From James D.
- Would this render Novacaine and similar drugs ineffective?