Deuterated drug

A deuterated drug is a small molecule medicinal product in which one or more of the hydrogen atoms contained in the drug molecule have been replaced by deuterium. Because of the kinetic isotope effect, deuterium-containing drugs may have significantly lower rates of metabolism, and hence a longer half-life.[1][2][3]

The first patent in the US granted for deuterated molecules was in the 1970s. Since then patents on deuterated drugs have become more prolific.[4]


SD-809 is a deuterated version of tetrabenazine. The non deuterated version of tetrabenazine is an approved drug for the involuntary movements in Huntington’s disease, however it short half-life limits its clinical efficacy. SD-809 has a longer half-life than the parent drug and has completed clinical trials. However the FDA has so far not approved the drug because the sponsor has not as yet provided data on the blood levels of tetrabenazine metabolites.[5]

Other examples of deuterated drugs are the psychedelics beta-D and 4-D.


  1. Sanderson K (March 2009). "Big interest in heavy drugs". Nature. 458 (7236): 269. doi:10.1038/458269a. PMID 19295573.
  2. Katsnelson A (June 2013). "Heavy drugs draw heavy interest from pharma backers". Nature Medicine. 19 (6): 656. doi:10.1038/nm0613-656. PMID 23744136.
  3. Gant TG (May 2014). "Using deuterium in drug discovery: leaving the label in the drug". Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 57 (9): 3595–611. doi:10.1021/jm4007998. PMID 24294889.
  4. "Drugs that live long will prosper". The Economist. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2015-09-18.
  5. Halford B (4 July 2016). "Deuterium switcheroo breathes life into old drugs". Chemical and Engineering News. American Chemical Society. 94 (27): 32–36.
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