DC biotech Vanda Pharmaceuticals developing treatment for stage fright

D.C.-based Vanda Pharmaceuticals has completed early stage clinical trials for an experimental treatment for acute performance anxiety in social situations, such as public speaking.

The Phase II clinical study of the drug involved 230 volunteers with a prior history of performance anxiety. In the study, participants were required to make interview-style presentations in front of a panel which provided no feedback or encouragement.

Vanda said participants who received the drug showed numerically lower stress levels compared to those who received a placebo.

Stress levels were measured using a self-rating scale of level of nervousness or distress. Vanda said female participants reported a larger positive response to the drug.

Vanda said this is the first time this particular type of drug has shown efficacy in a clinical study of performance anxiety. There were no negative cognitive effects reported by participants, Vanda said.

It binds to the same receptor that nicotine does.

Vanda cites studies that say about 20% of the U.S. population experiences debilitating performance anxiety, involving activities public speaking and musical performance, as well as writer’s block. There currently is no FDA-approved drug treatment specifically for performance anxiety. Those often prescribed tend to be sedating, which is not preferred in a performance situation.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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