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Scientific Research on Vaping Pharmaceutical Drugs Could Kill Pain Pills

03/16/2016 12:54 pm ET

This article was originally posted on Inverse.

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Vaping is not just trend piece fodder anymore; it's a mainstream habit. Still -- despite the best efforts of the vaping congressman -- it hasn't exactly become a routine part of every day life. Vaping is not a major part of non-bluetooth headset wearing Americans lives, but it could be in the not too distant future. Medical science may make vaporizers as ubiquitous as the outdated thermometers going unused in our drug cabinets.

Right now, quite a few pharmaceutical companies are exploring the use of vaporizers for medical purposes. Vaping might be an effective way to deliver drugs to patents' bodies faster, more effectively, and with less danger than current methods. The thinking goes that vaporizers deliver the drugs faster than pills, which need to be digested. Vaping is also less painful than periodic injections.

Most of this work in the last decade has focused on using vaporizers to deliver medical marijuana. This makes sense when you think about. As a medicinal substance, cannabis is often prescribed for pain relief and anti-anxiety purposes. Both of these ailments are the type of problems you would want to treat as fast as possible. One recent study found a 45 percent reduction in pain intensity just 20 minutes after the first inhalation, lasting about 90 minutes total.

But cannabis as pain relief is just one potential vaping application. Another use being investigated turns a new epilepsy drug into a vaporized form that patients can breathe in to prevent the onset of seizures. Alexza Pharmaceuticals just wrapped up a Phase IIa study. The results showed promise in helping reduce seizures caused by photosensitivity.

It's not all great news, however. One drugmaker tried to hedge bets that diabetics would prefer getting their insulin through vape doses rather than needles. Makes sense right? Unfortunately, it hasn't been selling well, and the manufacturer of inhalable insulin lost its contract with pharmaceutical giant Sanofi back in January.

It's not out the of question to see vaping become a legitimate medical product in the future. The one sure thing about that prospect -- it will be a long time. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration tends to take an average of 12 years. In order for Sanofi to have gotten this far with its inhalable insulin product, it needed to have started the process back when George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq back in 2003. If vaping truly can help people combat their illnesses, however, the FDA will have no choice but to speed the approval process forward. In an ideal scenario, we might see doctors prescribing vape-ready drugs by the middle of next decade.

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Photos via micadew via Wikimedia Commons

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