New drug could be safer, non-addictive alternative to morphine

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.

Opium-based drugs are the leading treatments for severe and chronic pain, but they can be highly addictive. Their abuse results in thousands of overdose deaths in the United States annually. They can cause motor impairment and potentially fatal respiratory depression. Patients also build up tolerance over time, increasing the risk for abuse and overdose.

"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.

Most Popular Now

Novartis drug Zykadia receives FDA Priority Review…

Novartis today announced that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accepted the Company's supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) for filing, and granted Priority R...

Read more

Mutual Recognition promises new framework for phar…

The United States and the European Union (EU) completed an exchange of letters to amend the Pharmaceutical Annex to the 1998 U.S.-EU Mutual Recognition Agreement. Under t...

Read more

New analysis shows Novartis Entresto improves glyc…

Novartis has announced results of a new post-hoc analysis in a subgroup of patients with reduced ejection fraction heart failure (HFrEF) and diabetes suggesting that Entr...

Read more

Drugs similar to aspirin, ibuprofen could help tre…

A potentially life-saving treatment for sepsis has been under our noses for decades in the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) most people have in their medici...

Read more

Novartis' Cosentyx shows almost all psoriasis pati…

Novartis has announced a new analysis showing that moderate-to-severe psoriasis patients treated with Cosentyx® (secukinumab) rapidly regain clear or almost clear skin (P...

Read more

Scientists stimulate immune system, stop cancer gr…

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago report that increasing expression of a chemical cytokine called LIGHT in mice with colon cancer activated the immune ...

Read more

Potential drug candidates halt prostate and breast…

Scientists on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have designed two new drug candidates to target prostate and triple negative breast cancers. The...

Read more

Johnson & Johnson completes acquisition of Abb…

Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) has completed the acquisition of Abbott Medical Optics (AMO), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abbott. The all-cash $4.325 billion acquisition w...

Read more

New England Journal of Medicine publishes long-ter…

In 2001 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted priority review for imatinib mesylate, sold under the name Gleevec®*, as an oral therapy for patients with chronic m...

Read more

Bristol-Myers Squibb expands focus on precision me…

Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (NYSE: BMY) announced its equity investment and plans for a research collaboration with GRAIL Inc., a life sciences company whose mission is ...

Read more

Volkswagen's excess emissions will lead to 1,200 p…

In September 2015, the German Volkswagen Group, the world's largest car producer, admitted to having installed "defeat devices" in 11 million diesel cars sold worldwide b...

Read more

Another record year for Bayer - good progress with…

Bayer had a very successful year in 2016, both strategically and operationally. Sales of the Bayer Group increased in 2016 by 1.5 percent (Fx & portfolio adj. 3.5 percent...

Read more

Pharmaceutical Companies

[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Z ]