“Inactive” drug compounds thought to cause unintended psychological effects flagged

July 27, 2020
“Inactive” drug compounds thought to cause unintended psychological effects flagged

Some biologically inactive compounds contained in drugs, called excipients, may lead to more unanticipated side effects than previously assumed. Scientists from the San Francisco School of Pharmacy, the University of California (UCSF), US, realised most currently used excipients have only been designated as inactive based on decades-old animal studies or historical precedents.

The scientists have since begun a comprehensive laboratory study to identify specific excipients which may actually be biologically active.

They employed different types of computational evaluation to systematically screen more than 3,290 excipients, to home in on those with the highest likelihood of interacting with human proteins. The scientists would later findat least 38 excipient molecules that showed interactions with 134 human enzymes or receptors.

“A good number of excipient molecules may have previously unappreciated effects on human proteins known to play an important role in health and disease,” said UCSF scientist Dr. Brian Shoichet. While further studies are needed to affirm the molecular interaction, the scientists also demonstrate an approach by which drug makers could in the future evaluate the excipients used in their formulations, and replace biologically active compounds with equivalent molecules that are truly inactive.

According to Joshua Pottel, a former postdoctoral researcher in the Shoichet lab, finding new properties of these excipients “was not so surprising” – their potency hypothetically could account for the variety of physiological responses seen in different patients taking the same medication.


Category: Features, Pharmaceuticals

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