Heart medication could warm hands

January 12, 2009 3:05:45 PM PST
There's new hope for people with a painful ailment called Raynaud's Phenomenon that makes them dread cold weather.

When the temperature drops, Angela Lewis quickly grabs her gloves.

She has Raynaud's Phenomenon, and has a hard time staying warm.

Angela says, "Or even if I have gloves on, some days it's just so cold and they're so sensitive that the gloves don't help right away."

Raynaud's phenomenon causes blood vessels to tighten and spasm in the cold.

Fingertips turn white, blue, or red, with tingling, numbness, and severe pain.

Dr. Laura Hummers, of Johns Hopkins University, says, "I tell patients that it's like a heart attack of the skin. I mean, their tissue at the tip of their finger is not getting enough blood flow, and it hurts like that."

Researchers at Johns Hopkins are now testing the same drug used to widen blood vessels to the heart... for Raynaud's, hoping it does the same thing for the hands.

The drug, nitroglycerin, has been put into a gel.

Dr. Hummers thinks that will work better than pills.

"The problem with nitroglycerin formulations as they stand right now is that they come with a significant amount of side effects. So you put the medication on your skin, and it absorbs into your whole body," she says.

The new gel is only absorbed where it's applied.

So far, volunteer testers like it.

Dr. Hummers says, "They all suggested that there was an improvement in blood flow, and that there was improvement in the Raynaud's severity in people who were on treatment compared to placebo."

Angela says, "I don't know if I had gel or placebo. But I'm pretty sure that, at one time, I did have gel, because I put it on, and it warms the hands up. And it warms them up kinda quick."

Raynaud's can also affect the toes, nose, ears, and even the tongue.

The FDA has granted a "priority review" to the gel, currently called MQX-503.

That means it could be approved within the next 6 months.