3 Things Pharmacists Should Know About Mucoactive Agents for Cold Treatment

Acute respiratory infections such as the common cold are often accompanied by cough and congestion caused by mucus hypersecretion.

Acute respiratory infections such as the common cold are often accompanied by cough and congestion caused by mucus hypersecretion.

The inability to clear mucus creates misery and discomfort, and it also reduces the affected individual's productivity. In addition, it can create a tremendous public health burden in direct and indirect costs.

Patients look for symptom relief so that they can continue to function and sleep. Fortunately, many mucoactive agents directed at congestion are available in the OTC aisle.

A paper published ahead of print in Lung looked at how we identify new mucoactive drugs and the potential to use big data analysis to find products that are more effective. This is a new concept that researchers are increasingly embracing.

The paper emphasized the following 3 areas of interest to pharmacists:

1. The study authors reviewed the categories of mucoactive agents, which include:

· Expectorants like guaifenesin, which hydrate mucus and make it easier for patients to expectorate

· Mucokinetics, which increase the likelihood that coughing will move mucus

· Mucolytics like N-acetylcysteine, which decrease mucus viscosity by cleaving mucin disulfide bonds

· Mucoregulators, which reduce mucus hypersecretion

Globally, 50 compounds are available that fall into these categories. In the United States, however, the FDA has approved only 2: guaifenesin and N-acetylcysteine.

2. Most researchers and regulatory agencies question the efficacy of approved mucoactive agents, but prescribers and patients with colds have faith in these products.

The study authors indicated that this suggests the products provide satisfactory symptom relief and tangible benefits.

3. The unavailability of additional mucoactive drugs in the United States is primarily due to a lack of validated clinical models and unequivocal efficacy results.

The researchers indicated that big data analysis techniques may help overcome current clinical research limitations. They describe this approach as radically different and discuss its utility in difficult-to-assess treatments for short-term, transient OTC conditions.

Big data analysis examines large and distinct data sets (including published studies, social media patterns, unpublished information, and insurance claims) to find hidden patterns, unknown correlations, market trends, customer preferences, and useful business information.

Business researchers have used big data analysis for many years to find effective marketing opportunities, new revenue opportunities, better customer service, improved operational efficiency, and competitive advantages.

In the case of mucoactive agents, the goal for big data analysis may be finding previously inaccessible consumer experiences with OTC drugs like guaifenesin and helping to craft patient selection factors and clinical study designs. Increasingly, researchers are using big data analyses to quicken drug development and regulatory approval timelines.