SPOKANE, Wash. – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can be paralyzing.
Not just for veterans, but for anyone who has gone through a traumatic experience.
There is new excitement however, as for the first time in 20 years, a new breakthrough drug – still in the testing phase – could tackle the problem.
First things first – it is not available yet. It is though being used in clinical trials and it has promising results.
Officials with the Spokane VA said there are still a lot of steps in the process before a treatment would become available to veterans struggling with PTSD. Everyone though, is certainly keeping an eye on the study because it could change lives.
Mark Bratton and his service dog Benny are also paying attention. Bratton served with the Marines in the Philippines in 2006, Iraq in 2007, and Afghanistan for two years. When he returned in 2001 – he was diagnosed with PTSD.
“I had seen the signs and symptoms while I was in the Marine Corps but kind of ignored them and pushed them away,” Bratton said.
The symptoms dramatically altered his life.
“Depression and anxiety. Not wanting to be around large crowds with people. Loud noises I would break out in sweats,” Bratton said.
“Looking at rooftops and being leery when I was driving. Always being skeptical of people and not trusting.”
Two and a half million veterans have been deployed to the Middle East since 2001. Twenty percent of those combat veterans return with PTSD – that is over 500,000 vets needing help.
“They threw a lot of medications at us and most of them don’t work,” Bratton said.
Dr. Harry Croft is the chief of central nervous system studies at the Clinical Trials of Texas.
“The last two drugs approved were Zoloft and Paxil back in the late 80s or early 90s,” he said.
Now though, a drug given breakthrough designation by the FDA could change all that. Researchers found a muscle relaxer was the key.
“What they decided to do was keep it in a much smaller dose than is used as a muscle relaxer and it’s given sub lingually under the tongue, which allows them to use a much smaller dose which doesn’t make people drowsy during the day,” Dr. Croft said.
It also bypasses the liver, going straight into the bloodstream. The drug, which does not have a name yet, is not going into a phase 3 trial. It already has had some success in previous trials, one of which Bratton was a part of.
“All the major things like depression and anxiety, feeling worthless and down, and all these negative thoughts have totally subsided or went away,” Bratton said.
PHOTOS: Spokane VA eyes breakthrough PTSD drug
The clinical trials are focused specifically on veterans who were deployed to the Middle East after 2001, but there is also a PTSD study for civilians. People involved in incidents such as rape, robbery, any type assault. Even weather disasters like hurricanes, floods, or fires – even car accidents.
“I feel it’s very important to get this medication out to not only the veteran community, but to other civilians who struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Bratton said.
The drug is being fast-tracked by the FDA, and if all goes well, it could be on the market within two years.
The next two years will be a series of tests. Then, if it gets approved, the VA will review the drug itself, on its own. That means they are going to monitor it for a while – to make sure it is safe and effective – before they add it to their list of possible PTSD therapies.
Once it gets approved, if and when that happens, a veteran here in Spokane or anywhere could ask for it specifically.
For more information on the clinical trials, click here.