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P2X3-Receptor Antagonists as Potential Antitussives: Summary of Current Clinical Trials in Chronic Cough


Cough is among the most common complaints for which patients worldwide seek medical attention. In a majority of patients with chronic cough (defined as cough of greater than 8 weeks’ duration), successful management results from a thorough evaluation and treatment of underlying causes. In a subgroup of patients, however, cough proves refractory to therapeutic trials aimed at known reversible causes of chronic cough. Such patients are appropriately termed as having refractory chronic cough. At present, safe and effective medications are lacking for this challenging patient population. Currently available therapeutic options are usually ineffective or achieve antitussive effect at the expense of intolerable side effects, typically sedation. Fortunately, the past decade has witnessed great progress in elucidating underlying mechanisms of cough. From that knowledge, aided by the development of validated instruments to measure objective and subjective cough-related end points, numerous antitussive drug development programs have emerged. The most active area of inquiry at present involves antagonists of the purinergic P2X receptors. Indeed, four clinical programs (one in Phase 3 and three in Phase 2) are currently underway investigating antagonists of receptors comprised entirely or partially of the P2X3 subunit as potential antitussive medications. Herein we review the foundation on which P2X receptor antagonists were developed as potential antitussive medications and provide an update on current clinical trials.

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Correspondence to Peter V. Dicpinigaitis.

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PVD and LPM have served as consultants for Merck, Bellus Health, Bayer and Shionogi. BJC has served as a consultant for Merck and Bellus Health. LPM has participated as a clinical trialist for Merck, Bellus Health, Bayer and Shionogi.

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Dicpinigaitis, P.V., McGarvey, L.P. & Canning, B.J. P2X3-Receptor Antagonists as Potential Antitussives: Summary of Current Clinical Trials in Chronic Cough. Lung 198, 609–616 (2020).

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  • Cough
  • Antitussive
  • Purinergic
  • Gefapixant
  • P2X3
  • P2X
  • ATP