Dramamine, which is typically used to treat motion sickness, could help patients suffering from heart disease.
- Anti-nausea drugs could double as heart medication.
- Dramamine can slow the heart down, giving medical professionals more time to intervene during a health crisis.
- Doctors caution, however, that results are still preliminary.
Dramamine, the popular anti-nausea medication, also has heart-preserving properties, according to a new study recently published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
When taken during a heart attack, Dramamine chemically cools the heart, slowing it down to give doctors extra minutes to save a patient's life. The scientists caution the research is still preliminary, and patients with heart diseases should not begin taking daily doses of the drug.
"This study started out as a fishing expedition but has led to some interesting leads," said Paul Brookes, a scientists at University of Rochester and a co-author of the paper describing the results.
According to scientists, Dramamine's effect on the heart is the chemical equivalent of being plunged into ice water. Every year there is a news report of someone falling into an ice covered pond or river. After agonizing minutes without oxygen the person is pulled out of the water, warmed up and somehow survives.
Usually only a few minutes without oxygen causes death. The icy water slows down the body's metabolism, extending the amount of time doctors, nurses or paramedics can successfully save a patient.
The study doesn't mean patients with heart disease should start taking Dramamine, says Brookes. The study was done in mice and rats, not humans. Scientists also don't know the exact cellular or molecular mechanisms Dramamine induces to protect the heart.
Dramamine also has well known side effects, including drowsiness and even hallucinations at high doses. Added together, human trials of Dramamine's heart protective effects are years away, said Brookes.
Dramamine wasn't the only drug the scientists identified. The scientists screened more than 3,700 different drugs to find new candidates to help patients survive a heart attack.
Of the more than 3,700 drugs, about 250 were identified as potentially helpful for hearts. Dramamine was one of the 140 drugs already known to doctors, many of which are approved heart medication. That leaves 110 other drugs that could help patients at risk for heart attacks that need to be explored, said Brookes.
The drug screening method is "pretty exciting," said James Downey, a doctor at the University of Alabama, Mobile. The technique will give scientists a new way to identify potentially life-saving drugs for any number of diseases or conditions.
Downey, however, agrees with Brookes that any treatment using Dramamine is still years -- and many a clinical trial -- away.