Tinnitus currently remains one of the few conditions that we don’t have a drug to treat. The closest we have is a steroid injection to the middle ear to try to control the unpleasant sounds. This can work, but it’s risky.
Gel Applications and New Injections
The companies are looking at ways to improve the treatment of tinnitus. Currently, steroid injections have to be performed with the patient lying down. They have to carefully avoid swallowing, because any disruption of the area of injection can either make the injection ineffective or lead to side effects. These risks include puncturing the eardrum and triggering vertigo.
To avoid these risks Otonomy is developing gel applications to allow them to deliver the same medications without the need for needles. This would make it easier to apply the medication, and more pleasant, but it wouldn’t necessarily change the effectiveness of the drug.
Auris is developing a new drug formulated to target tinnitus. It’s been designated AM-101, and it’s currently undergoing trials to prove its effectiveness. The reports from the second stage trial should be reported in 2008, and then Auris can decide whether they want to start a third stage trial on the drug or abandon their application.
Auris’ treatment requires multiple ear injections, and each time patients have to lie still for half an hour after injection.
While You’re Waiting for New Drugs
We don’t know how long it will be before these new tinnitus treatments are available. The steroid gel should be easy to get approved. It’s a known drug for a known application, and the new gel being used is also known: it’s been used for antibiotics. But with all these knowns, there isn’t necessarily too much to be excited about. We know that steroids are only effective for about 45% of tinnitus sufferers.
We don’t know what the actual effectiveness of Auris’ drug will be, but it may be years before it’s ready to market.
However, there are some tinnitus treatments that are currently available. One treatment option that many people don’t consider is TMJ treatment. Temporomandibular joint disorder (called TMJ or TMD) is a jaw disorder, but it can affect the ear, leading to tinnitus as well as ear pain, vertigo, and other symptoms. TMJ treatment can be very effective for tinnitus, and because it’s a drug-free treatment there’s no risk of drug side effects.