Study: New drug could be safer, non-addictive alternative to morphine | January 28, 2016
Researchers at Tulane University and Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System have developed a painkiller that is as strong as morphine but isn’t likely to be addictive and with fewer side effects, according to a new study in the journal Neuropharmacology.
Using rats, scientists compared several engineered variants of the neurochemical endomorphin, which is found naturally in the body, to morphine to measure their effectiveness and side effects.
The peptide-based drugs target the same pain-relieving opioid receptor as morphine.
“These side effects were absent or reduced with the new drug,” said lead investigator James Zadina, VA senior research career scientist and professor of medicine, pharmacology and neuroscience at Tulane University School of Medicine. “It’s unprecedented for a peptide to deliver such powerful pain relief with so few side effects.”
In the study, the new endomorphin drug produced longer pain relief without substantially slowing breathing in rats; a similarly potent dosage of morphine produced significant respiratory depression. Impairment of motor coordination, which can be of particular importance to older adults, was significant after morphine but not with the endomorphin drug
The new drug produced far less tolerance than morphine and did not produce spinal glial cell activation, an inflammatory effect of morphine known to contribute to tolerance.
Scientists conducted several experiments to test whether the drug would be addictive. One showed that although rats would spend more time in a compartment where they had received morphine, the new drug did not affect this behavior. Another test showed that when the press of a bar produced an infusion of drug, the rats only increased efforts to obtain morphine and not the new drug. The tests are predictive of human drug abuse, Zadina said.
Researchers hope to begin human clinical trials of the new drug within the next two years.
Two years? With the opioid crisis in full swing, I can’t believe this isn’t getting more urgency and news coverage. Here’s where the CDC could effectively use its influence to push the FDA to hasten the approval process as much as possible.
The CDC seems far too focused on addiction to consider this incredibly good news about a potential non-addictive, more effective opioid.
It does seem like very few important people care about relief for people suffering in pain. They’re so anxious to end addiction, yet when this obviously useful, patient-saving drug is discovered, it’s not given nearly as much attention as such a discovery should generate.