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Best Of The Web Science
“With nearly 50,000 drug overdose deaths from opioids last year and an estimated two million Americans addicted, the opioid crisis continues to rage throughout the U.S. This statistic must be contrasted with another: 25 million Americans live with daily chronic pain, for which few treatment options are available apart from opioid medications.
Opioid drugs like morphine and Oxycontin are still held as the gold standard when it comes to relieving pain. But it has become brutally obvious that opioids have dangerous side effects, including physical dependence, addiction and the impaired breathing that too often leads to death from an overdose. Researchers have long been searching for a drug that would relieve pain without such a heavy toll, with few results so far.
Now a study in monkeys published in Science Translational Medicine shows a new type of opioid drug met all the criteria on drug developers’ wish list. The findings even suggest that instead of causing addiction, the new compound might be used to curb addiction and pain all at once. The study was led by Mei-Chuan (Holden) Ko, a researcher at Wake Forest University, and medical chemist Nurulain Zaveri, founder of California-based Astraea Therapeutics. “They’ve got something here that’s really important,” says William Schmidt, a pharmaceutical consultantbased in Davis, Calif., who was not involved in the work. “I think the chances of a compound with these properties moving forward are high, and simultaneously pretty exciting.”
It sounds too good to be true – a nonaddictive opioid painkiller without lethal side effects. It could be a crucial tool in battling the opioid crisis, and it may soon be a reality.
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