The new drug is as effective as morphine but has none of the addictive qualities that morphine possesses.
With the opioid epidemic hitting the States hard, a new drug has been produced that could help with pain minimalization without the risk of a person overdosing, according to a recent study.
A collaboration between scientists from four different universities – Stanford, the University of California San Francisco, the University of North Carolina and the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nürnberg – involved examining over 2500 different compounds using computer simulation programmes to find ones that would successfully bind to opioid receptors. One compound was discovered in particular and was sent for more testing.
This compound was found to activate specific chemical pathways in connection to painkilling but without any negative effects on breathing. After modification due to its inability to bind to opioid receptors, the resulting compound was found to be as powerful as morphine when tested on mice.
The most surprising find was when mice were offered the choice of using the drug or not after several times of use, they didn’t appear to have a preference. This is the opposite to tests using morphine where mice show signs of high addiction.
“Morphine transformed medicine,” says Dr. Brian Shoichet, a professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the University of California San Francisco and was involved in the study. “There are so many medical procedures we can do now because we know we can control the pain afterwards. But it’s obviously dangerous too. People have been searching for a safer replacement for standard opioids for decades.”
Further testing must be undertaken to safely prove its non-addictive qualities and will be tested on humans before a possibility of making it widely available in the mainstream. If this does prove non-addictive, it could go towards helping the opioid epidemic that led to 28,000 people overdosing in 2014.
The details of the study were published in the journal Nature.