Could vaccines work against substance-use disorders? One congressman wants to find out

Published: Monday, April 8, 2024 - 1:29pm
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Arizona congressman David Schweikert recently introduced a bill to fast track the development of treatments to combat substance-use disorders. The bill would give priority to research and development applications for vaccines that treat opioid, cocaine, methamphetamine or alcohol use.

“That’s actually why we’re doing the legislation,” Schweikert told KJZZ News, “to move it up to the top of the stack so that it does get priority review — that if it’s ready for becoming part of our toolkit in the public, it moves there much, much faster.”

Schweikert said he wrote the Substance Therapy Designation Act to expedite treatments that focus on changes to the brain's structure and chemistry. For example, developing vaccines like one designed by Brazilian researchers to lessen the effect of cocaine by blocking the way the drug enters the brain’s reward center.

“My job here is just trying to move these options through the bureaucratic process as quickly as possible — and safely,” he said.

Shweikert said making it faster and easier to develop treatments that focus on brain chemistry is necessary to keep up with the increasing potency of drugs like fentanyl. He added that he has consulted civil rights lawyers to discuss the potential use of a treatment that could have long-lasting or permanent effects.

The bill must be heard in the Energy and Commerce Committee before it can head to the full House.

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