As many as 10% of adults around the world have a chronic, unexplained cough—and now they might finally get some relief. There's currently no effective treatment for a cough that has no clear cause, but UK researchers say a clinical trial of a potential new drug called Gefapixant (MK-7264) has achieved promising results, the BBC reports. Of the 253 otherwise healthy men and women from the US and UK who participated in the 12-week trial, who had reported coughing 24 to 29 times per hour before the trial, those who were given the drug got down to an average of 11 coughs per hour. The drug works by blocking a cell receptor that's integral to the cough reflex, according to US News & World Report.
"Many patients with a chronic cough are driven to seek treatment because of the significant negative impact it can have on their quality of life, but at the moment physicians are unable to help," says the study leader. "Ours is the first study to report a treatment that is safe and effective over the longer term." Bigger studies of the drug are currently in the works. However, researchers note there was a placebo effect, with those not given the drug still reporting a reduction to an average of 18 coughs per hour. And a doctor not involved with the study notes that while the drug could be "life-changing," physicians must be careful not to prescribe it until it's clear there is no other treatable cause for the cough. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer can also cause a chronic cough. (Read more scientific study stories.)