New pill against common cause of heavy snoring could be on the way, as research shows that disturbed breathing and sleep disorders in participants are halved

  • The first-ever drug treatment, known as AD109, could help 1.5 million British adults

A new night pill could help eliminate heavy snoring.

When tested, many volunteers saw symptoms such as disturbed breathing and disturbed sleep almost halved.

The pill, possibly the first ever drug treatment for heavy snorers, is thought to work by strengthening the muscles in the airways to prevent tissue from collapsing and blocking airflow.

This is the leading cause of obstructive sleep apnoea, the snoring disease that affects around 1.5 million adults in Britain.

As the throat muscles relax during sleep, surrounding tissue narrows or blocks the airways, interrupting normal breathing.

In trials of a new pill for heavy snorers, symptoms such as labored breathing and sleep disorders were almost halved (file photo)

People with sleep apnea experience repeated pauses in their breathing that last ten seconds or more – until the lack of oxygen prompts the brain to start breathing again.

Symptoms include loud snoring, noisy and labored breathing, and daytime fatigue. Those affected usually have no memory of the interruptions. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of stroke and heart disease.

The main treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which involves wearing a mask attached to a pump at night to deliver pressurized air to the airways to prevent them from closing.

Although it is effective, many people find the mask difficult to wear in bed. Up to 70 percent of patients who receive CPAP abandon the device due to discomfort, the journal BMC Pulmonary Medicine reported last year.

The pill, known as AD109, is a combination of two existing medications: aroxybutynin – a modified version of oxybutynin (already used to treat overactive bladder) – and atomoxetine (used for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder).

Both medications have an effect on muscle activation and tone. Previous animal studies have suggested that they strengthen the genioglossus muscle, which helps keep the upper airway open.

The pill, known as AD109, is a combination of two existing medications: aroxybutynin and atomoxetine

The pill, known as AD109, is a combination of two existing medications: aroxybutynin and atomoxetine

In a recent US trial of the pill, 211 people with sleep apnea were given AD109 or dummy pills to take at night for four weeks. They then underwent polysomnography, in which sensors attached to the body measure brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing during sleep.

The results, published earlier this year in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, showed that after four weeks, overall symptom scores had fallen by more than half in 44 percent of those taking the AD109 tablet.

Many went from an average of 45 sleep disruptions per hour to fewer than ten. Daytime fatigue was also reduced and the side effects were relatively minor. The most common was dry mouth.

A larger trial is now being set up, involving 1,500 patients.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Jaydip Ray, a sleep apnea expert at the University of Sheffield, said: ‘A tablet could revolutionize our treatment of this condition, but we need to see results from larger studies.’