Severity of Xerostomia Reduced When Salagen Tablets Taken During Radiation Therapy

December 1, 1996

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.

A study presented at the annual meeting of the American Societyfor Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) found that takingSalagen tablets (pilocarpine hydrochloride) during radiation therapyreduces the symptoms of xerostomia more effectively than takingthe drug after radiation therapy is completed.

According to lead author Robert P. Zimmerman, md, UCLA Departmentof Radiation Oncology, Los Angeles, the study compared the severityof xerostomia endured by head and neck cancer patients when Salagenwas administered during therapy, after therapy, and not at all.The study involved a total of 29 cancer patients: 17 who receivedSalagen during radiation therapy and 12 who did not take the drugduring therapy. After radiation therapy was completed, the 12nontreated patients were placed on Salagen for 1 month and wereagain compared with those who received Salagan concurrently withradiation therapy.

The 17 patients who began taking Salagen Tablets concurrentlywith radiation therapy suffered significantly less from oral drynessand discomfort and encountered markedly less difficulty sleeping,speaking, and eating. The most severe xerostomia was seen in post-radiationpatients who had not yet received Salagen Tablets.

The results of this study concur with those of another study presentedin May 1996 at the annual meeting of the American Society of ClinicalOncology by Francis G. LeVeque, dds, Chief of Oral Medicine andOncology at DMC Harper Hospital, Detroit. Dr. Leveque's studyof 16 patients showed that using Salagen Tablets concurrentlywith radiation therapy significantly reduced oral dryness andpain and decreased the incidence of oral mucositis by 60%.

Radiation therapy used to treat tumors of the head and neck damagesthe salivary glands, reducing their ability to produce saliva.Research shows that a decrease in salivary flow typically beginsas early as the first week of radiation therapy. The resultantdry 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 indicatedfor the treatment of symptoms of radiation-induced xerostomiain the United States. Salagen works by stimulating moisture-producingglands in the body, including the salivary and tear glands.

Health-care providers and patients who need information aboutmanaging dry mouth can call the Salagen Tablets/Dry Mouth InformationHotline at 1-800-644-4811, Monday through Friday, 9 am to 8 pmEST. Registered pharmacists are available to answer questionsabout how to manage problems associated with dry mouth and theuse of Salagen Tablets. In addition, they can provide educationalmaterials for dry mouth sufferers.