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First new cough treatment in 50 years as trials show significant reduction in symptoms

Published: 27 February 2020

Researchers from the University of Manchester have announced that a new drug has been shown to reduce symptoms of chronic cough with minimal side effects. If licenced, this will be the first new cough drug in 50 years and offers hope to the millions of people living with chronic cough for whom few, if any, effective treatments exist. This work was supported by the NIHR through the Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration and the Manchester Clinical Research Facility.

A cough is considered to be chronic when a patient has experienced coughing for eight weeks or more, with many patients living with the condition for years and even decades without effective treatment.

The drug, Gefapixant (MK-7264), was developed by Afferent Pharmaceuticals which was acquired by Merck in 2016. Gefapixant targets P2X3receptors in the nerves which control coughing and the trial monitored the impact of the drug using a special cough monitoring device they developed which counts coughs.

Afferent Pharmaceuticals initially approached the NIHR and were connected with experts from the NIHR Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration.

The Respiratory Translational Research Collaboration tested Gefapixant as part of a twelve week clinical trial involving more than 200 patients at 47 sites in the UK and US. This study was led by Professor Jackie Smith from the Centre of Respiratory and Allergy at the University of Manchester and Director of the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility.

Professor Smith said: “This drug has exciting prospects for patients who suffer from the often distressing condition of chronic cough. Effective treatments for cough are a significant unmet clinical need and no new therapies approved in over 50 years.”

By working with the NIHR, Afferent Pharmaceuticals were able to access expertise, facilities and trial management services from across the NIHR’s national infrastructure.

The study results were published today in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine and show that the twelve week trial of 253 patients saw 80% of patients had a clinically significant response to a dose of 50mg.

The drug is now in two larger global phase III trials, which hope to confirm and expand on the safety and effectiveness results from the previous research.

If you are interested in accessing the NIHR’s expertise and facilities, please contact the NIHR Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure:


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