Illness in Asthma Study

In a 1978 asthma study at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF), two of four volunteers became ill after being medicated with hexamethonium, the drug associated with the death of a research volunteer at Johns Hopkins University on June 2.

Because of the recent tragedy, UCSF’s Committee on Human Research has begun reviewing the study, which, like the research at Johns Hopkins, was a small basic experiment intended to investigate the physiology of asthma.

According to a statement released by UCSF on Wednesday, one study subject presented to the UCSF emergency department complaining of chest tightness and shortness of breath 4 days after inhaling hexamethonium. He described his participation in the study. The physician’s impression was that the volunteer probably had viral pneumonia, and he referred him to a private pulmonologist, who agreed. The patient improved on the antibiotic erythromycin.

The second study participant complained of headache and vague discomfort, which according to a university statement was unrelated to the use of hexamethonium. This volunteer was withdrawn from the study.

When the results of the UCSF study were published in 1980 in the American Review of Respiratory Disease, the investigators did not report the case of pneumonia because they believed it was unrelated to the patient’s use of hexamethonium, the university said.

According to a report Friday in the New York Times, Dr. Alkis Togias, the lead investigator of the Hopkins study, had cited data from the UCSF study as the primary evidence that hexamethonium was safe for use in asthma research.

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February 27th, 2012 - Posted in Diseases | | Comments Off

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