BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Early results on a non-addictive painkiller being created at Indiana University have researchers optimistic they could create a drug that could help curb the country's opioid epidemic.
Inside the Multidisciplinary Science Building II, a pre-clinical study shows a promising step forward in scientists' search for pain relief methods without addictive side effects.
The research finds that the use of compounds called positive allosteric modulators, or PAMS, enhance the effect of pain-relief chemicals naturally produced by the body in response to stress or injury.
“To fully suppress pain, but not have any measurable unwanted side effects, I think, really has the potential to change the face of pain management as we know it," said Andrea Hohmann, Ph.D., the Linda and Jack Gill Chair or Neuroscience and a professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at IU. "We’re not seeing reward, or the potential for abuse."
Hohmann is the lead investigator of the research.
According to a release issued by the university, more than 97 million Americans took prescription painkillers in 2015, with two million people reporting they had problems with the drugs.
Hohmann said there has been a push for medical researchers to study PAMs, in part to help with the country's opioid problem.
“For many years my laboratory has focused on ways of taking the positive parts, the therapeutic potential for suppressing pain, but by-passing those unwanted side effects like a marijuana high, "said Hohmann.
IU graduate student Richard Slivicki works in Hohmann's lab and has led the study's experiments. So far, the compound has been used on lab mice.
Tests continue, but if the study can advance to trials on people, and eventually the compound makes its way to people, the drug could be used to address pain before patients ever need to find stronger, potentially life-threatening, drugs.
“The idea is hopefully they’ll never get to that point with this medication," said Slivicki. "Because of the side effect profile or the lack of side effect profile that it possesses we hope it can treat the pain without having any of those side effects.”
Hohmann said it would still be a few years, if the study produces good results, before the compound is made for public use.
The study has been at least partially funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.