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

Amgen announces Repatha® (evolocumab) significantl…

Amgen (NASDAQ:AMGN) has announced that the FOURIER trial evaluating whether Repatha® (evolocumab) reduces the risk of cardiovascular events in patients with clinically ev...

Read more

Too much sitting, too little exercise may accelera…

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine report that elderly women who sit for more than 10 hours a day with low physical activity have cells ...

Read more

Lilly and CoLucid Pharmaceuticals announce agreeme…

Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) and CoLucid Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASD: CLCD) have announced an agreement for Lilly to acquire CoLucid for $46.50 per share or approxim...

Read more

Vitamin D discovery could prove key to new treatme…

A team led by Motonari Uesugi, professor and deputy director of Kyoto University's Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS), found that a vitamin D metabol...

Read more

Structure of atypical cancer protein paves way for…

A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has helped uncover the elusive structure of a cancer cell receptor protein that can be lever...

Read more

Merck announces research collaboration with Domain…

Merck, a leading science and technology company, today announced it has entered into a collaboration and licensing agreement with Domain Therapeutics, Strasbourg, France...

Read more

AstraZeneca expands 1st-line lung cancer Immuno-On…

AstraZeneca has provided an update on its Immuno-Oncology (IO) late-stage clinical development programme in 1st-line non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), including a refin...

Read more

The drugs don't work, say back pain researchers

Commonly used non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, used to treat back pain provide little benefit, but cause side effects, according to new research ...

Read more

Nuts can inhibit the growth of cancer cells

Roasted and salted, ground as a baking ingredient or fresh from the shell - for all those who enjoy eating nuts, there is good news from nutritionists at Friedrich Schill...

Read more

Novo Nordisk enters collaboration with University …

University of Oxford and Novo Nordisk today announced a landmark research collaboration focused on type 2 diabetes. The partnership will enable scientists from Novo Nordi...

Read more

Pfizer reports fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 r…

Pfizer Inc. (NYSE: PFE) reported financial results for fourth-quarter and full-year 2016 and provided 2017 financial guidance. Pfizer manages its commercial operations th...

Read more

Anti-inflammatory diet could reduce risk of bone l…

Anti-inflammatory diets - which tend to be high in vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains - could boost bone health and prevent fractures in some women, a new study su...

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 ]