As the annual rate of overdose deaths from opioid painkillers rises, alongside deaths from other drugs, PBS researchers are finding solutions to the crisis in which so many communities find themselves.
Neuroscientists Andrea Hohmann, Ken Mackie and collaborators in their labs recently discovered a compound that, when administered with opioids used to treat chemotherapy-induced pain, prevents both tolerance and physical dependence on opioids in rodents. The drug could reduce the likelihood that chemotherapy patients become addicted to their pain management prescriptions. It also has the capacity to reduce pain in its own right, whether or not additional opiates are prescribed. And for those in treatment for overdose or addiction, this drug could lessen withdrawal symptoms.
The drug has yet another major advantage: It has already been proven safe for human consumption. Formerly tested in a clinical trial as a treatment for osteoarthritis knee pain, it was shown to be an ineffective treatment for this condition, yet nonetheless safe for people.
“The potential to quickly begin using this compound in combination with opioid-based medication to treat pain and reduce addiction makes this discovery very significant,” said Hohmann. “We already know this drug is safe for people, so moving into human trials will not require as many regulatory hurdles.”