|Systematic (IUPAC) name|
|Trade names||Lioresal, Liofen|
|Licence data||US FDA:|
|Metabolism||85% excreted in urine/faeces unchanged. 15% metabolised by deamination|
|Half-life||1.5 to 4 hours|
|Mol. mass||213.661 g/mol|
|(what is this?)|
Baclofen (brand names Kemstro, Lioresal, Liofen, Gablofen, Lyflex, Beklo and Baclosan) is a derivative of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). It is primarily used to treat spasticity and is in the early research stages for use for the treatment of alcoholism. It is also used by compounding pharmacies in topical pain creams as a muscle relaxant.
A beneficial property of baclofen is that tolerance does not seem to occur to a significant degree — baclofen retains its therapeutic anti-spasmodic effects even after many years of continued use. Newer studies, however, indicate that tolerance may develop in some patients receiving intrathecal baclofen treatment.
Baclofen is primarily used for the treatment of spastic movement disorders, especially in instances of spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. Its use in people with stroke or Parkinson's disease is not recommended.
Baclofen as of 2013 is not recommended as a treatment of alcohol withdrawal syndrome even though evidence is promising. It however may be a promising treatment for alcoholism. Encouraging findings provide preliminary support for the use of baclofen in withdrawal, maintaining abstinence and improving outcome in people with cannabis dependence.
Mechanism of action
Baclofen produces its effects by activating the GABAB receptor, similar to the drug GHB which also activates this receptor and shares some of its effects. However, baclofen does not have significant affinity for the GHB receptor, and has no known abuse potential. The modulation of the GABAB receptor is what produces baclofen's range of therapeutic properties.
Description of compound
Baclofen is a white (or off white) mostly odorless crystalline powder, with a molecular weight of 213.66 g/mol. It is slightly soluble in water, very slightly soluble in methanol, and insoluble in chloroform.
The drug is rapidly absorbed after oral administration and is widely distributed throughout the body. Biotransformation is low and the drug is predominantly excreted in the unchanged form by the kidneys. The half life of baclofen is roughly 2–4 hours and needs to be administered frequently throughout the day to control spasticity appropriately.
Routes of administration
Baclofen can be administered topically as part of a pain-relieving and muscle-relaxing cream mixed at a compounding pharmacy, orally or intrathecally (directly into the cerebral spinal fluid) using a pump implanted under the skin.
Intrathecal pumps offer much lower doses of baclofen because they are designed to deliver the medication directly to the spinal fluid rather than going through the digestive and blood system first. They are often preferred in spasticity patients such as those with spastic diplegia, as very little of the oral dose actually reaches the spinal fluid. Besides those with spasticity, intrathecal administration is also used in patients with multiple sclerosis who have severe painful spasms which are not controllable by oral baclofen. With pump administration, a test dose is first injected into the spinal fluid to assess the effect, and if successful in relieving spasticity, a chronic intrathecal catheter is inserted from the spine through to the abdomen and attached to the pump which is implanted under the abdomen's skin, usually by the ribcage. The pump is computer-controlled for automatic dosage and the reservoir in the pump can be replenished by percutaneous injection.
In about 5% of patients, the intrathecal route has absolutely no effect on the nervous system, no matter how great a dose is administered. A similar lack of any effect have been reported by those with spasticity who try the oral route, but for some, the oral route works while the intrathecal route does not. Again, there are no known clinical theories as to why these discrepancies are present in the baclofen-spastic CP pairing. Additionally, for some people with spasticity, a lower dose of baclofen may be less effective, while for others that same dose will be very effective. This is why clinicians always insist to a spastic diplegic or similar person that s/he must start out with a low dose of baclofen and increase the dosage slowly.
Discontinuation of baclofen can be associated with a withdrawal syndrome which resembles benzodiazepine withdrawal and alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal symptoms are more likely if baclofen is used for long periods of time (more than a couple of months) and can occur from low or high doses. The severity of baclofen withdrawal depends on the rate at which baclofen is discontinued. Thus to minimise baclofen withdrawal symptoms the dose should be tapered down slowly when discontinuing baclofen therapy. Abrupt withdrawal is more likely to result in severe withdrawal symptoms. Acute withdrawal symptoms can be stopped by recommencing baclofen.
Withdrawal symptoms may include auditory hallucinations, visual hallucinations, tactile hallucinations, delusions, confusion, agitation, delirium, disorientation, fluctuation of consciousness, insomnia, dizziness (feeling faint), nausea, inattention, memory impairments, perceptual disturbances, pruritus/itching, anxiety, depersonalization, hypertonia, hyperthermia, formal thought disorder, psychosis, mania, mood disturbances, restlessness, and behavioral disturbances, tachycardia, seizures, tremors, autonomic dysfunction, hyperpyrexia (fever), extreme muscle rigidity resembling neuroleptic malignant syndrome and rebound spasticity.
One case series exists in which a group of adolescents overdosed on up to 600 mg of Baclofen. The main danger of recreational use is high risk of overdose which may cause coma, hypothermia, bradycardia, hypertension, and hyporeflexia.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (April 2011)|
Historically baclofen was designed as a drug for treating epilepsy. It was synthesized for the first time in Ciba-Geigy by the Swiss chemist Heinrich Keberle in 1962. The effect on epilepsy was disappointing but it was found that in certain patients spasticity decreased. Baclofen was and is still given orally with variable effects. In severely affected children, the oral dose is so high that side-effects appear and the treatment loses its benefit. How and when baclofen came to be used in the spinal sac remains unclear, but as of 2012[update] this has become an established method for the treatment of spasticity in many conditions.
Alcohol and other addictions
Inspired by reading Olivier Ameisen's The End of My Addiction (2009), an anonymous donor gave $750,000 to the University of Amsterdam (UvA) in the Netherlands to initiate the clinical trial of high-dose baclofen which Ameisen had called for since 2004.
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