Treating suffering

Treating suffering

A UT Austin professor has developed a new process for manufacturing drugs that relieve pain and halt the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
 
Philip Magnus, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry, has constructed a compound used in making the painkiller codeine and the Alzheimer’s drug galanthamine. The findings are significant because there is a worldwide shortage of codeine and because galanthamine is prohibitively expensive — about $2,000 per month per patient.
 
The results were reported in November 2009 in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
 
One of the challenges of getting new drugs on the market is finding a way to efficiently produce them. Even if a drug exists, it may be too rare or too expensive to get to patients. That’s where streamlining the production process comes in.
 
Magnus wanted to mimic nature’s way of making a compound used in both drugs — and do it more efficiently than current methods. He succeeded, finding a way to produce more of the compound using fewer steps. Magnus has been studying galanthamine since the early ’60s when he was an undergraduate at Imperial College in London.
 
Codeine is an important tool in managing pain in terminally ill patients. Galanthamine has been shown to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s — the closest thing to a cure so far.
 
Magnus is currently working to find a pharmaceutical company to develop his discovery.