A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society
for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) found that taking
Salagen tablets (pilocarpine hydrochloride) during radiation therapy
reduces the symptoms of xerostomia more effectively than taking
the drug after radiation therapy is completed.
According to lead author Robert P. Zimmerman, md, UCLA Department
of Radiation Oncology, Los Angeles, the study compared the severity
of xerostomia endured by head and neck cancer patients when Salagen
was administered during therapy, after therapy, and not at all.
The study involved a total of 29 cancer patients: 17 who received
Salagen during radiation therapy and 12 who did not take the drug
during therapy. After radiation therapy was completed, the 12
nontreated patients were placed on Salagen for 1 month and were
again compared with those who received Salagan concurrently with
The 17 patients who began taking Salagen Tablets concurrently
with radiation therapy suffered significantly less from oral dryness
and discomfort and encountered markedly less difficulty sleeping,
speaking, and eating. The most severe xerostomia was seen in post-radiation
patients who had not yet received Salagen Tablets.
The results of this study concur with those of another study presented
in May 1996 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical
Oncology by Francis G. LeVeque, dds, Chief of Oral Medicine and
Oncology at DMC Harper Hospital, Detroit. Dr. Leveque's study
of 16 patients showed that using Salagen Tablets concurrently
with radiation therapy significantly reduced oral dryness and
pain and decreased the incidence of oral mucositis by 60%.
Radiation therapy used to treat tumors of the head and neck damages
the salivary glands, reducing their ability to produce saliva.
Research shows that a decrease in salivary flow typically begins
as early as the first week of radiation therapy. The resultant
dry mouth predisposes patients to a multitude of oral complications,
including mucositis, oral infections, and tooth decay. In addition,
patients who suffer from this condition can have difficulty speaking,
eating, and swallowing.
Salagen Tablets are the only prescription pharmaceutical indicated
for the treatment of symptoms of radiation-induced xerostomia
in the United States. Salagen works by stimulating moisture-producing
glands in the body, including the salivary and tear glands.
Health-care providers and patients who need information about
managing dry mouth can call the Salagen Tablets/Dry Mouth Information
Hotline at 1-800-644-4811, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 8 pm
EST. Registered pharmacists are available to answer questions
about how to manage problems associated with dry mouth and the
use of Salagen Tablets. In addition, they can provide educational
materials for dry mouth sufferers.