Inhibition of Capsaicin-Induced Cough by the γ-Aminobutyric Acid Agonist Baclofen

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Abstract

γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a central inhibitory neurotransmitter that also exists in the lungs. The GABA-agonist baclofen has been shown to have antitussive activity via a central mechanism in animals. Recently it was demonstrated that a 14-day course of baclofen given three times daily significantly inhibits the cough reflex in healthy volunteers. Because of the prolonged antitussive effect of baclofen that has been previously observed, the present study was conducted to evaluate the antitussive effect of low-dose, oral baclofen given once daily. Forty-one healthy volunteers were randomly assigned in a double-blind manner to receive a 28-day course of baclofen, either 10 mg or 20 mg once daily, or placebo. Subjects underwent cough challenge testing with inhaled capsaicin to establish baseline cough reflex sensitivity, and subsequently after 14 and 28 days of therapy. Subjects receiving baclofen 20 mg daily demonstrated significant inhibition of cough sensitivity after 14 days and after 28 days of therapy compared with baseline. Neither placebo nor baclofen 10 mg daily had a significant effect on cough sensitivity. No serious side effects were experienced by any study participant. These results confirm the recent observation that baclofen has significant antitussive activity in humans. Further, once-daily administration of a relatively low dose of baclofen is sufficient to achieve significant cough inhibition, although at least 14 to 28 days of therapy may be required to attain maximal antitussive effect. These results support further investigation of baclofen or other GABA-agonists as potential therapeutic agents for chronic, nonproductive cough.

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