New Painkiller Works Like Opioids Without Addiction

It seems scientists may come up with a new pain addiction medication which acts like opioids but is devoid of the signature (or should we say, notorious?) side effects. The painkiller is in the initial stages of research and administration in monkeys has shown positive results.

The researchers believe the drug acts towards pain relief just like OxyContin (oxycodone) but without the potential for addiction.

According to Andrew Coop, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, USA, the new painkiller “has the potential to replace morphine as the gold standard for treating severe pain.”

Are golden days for Morphine over?

Numerous doctors agree there is an immediate need for painkillers which act like potent drugs such as Percocet, OxyContin and morphine without the side effects. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently the US is going through an opioid addiction epidemic as more than 40 Americans die every day as a result of opioid addiction. In a bid to control this epidemic the CDC even issued new prescribing guidelines earlier in March 2016.

Furthermore, the sales of opioids in the US are four times higher than it was back in 1999. More effective pain killers which relieve pain without side effects like addiction, sleepiness, confusion, double vision or constipation, are needed.

The new painkiller was found when a government-funded study was examining a new compound named BU08028, which has similar action to the opioid painkiller; Buprenorphine, sold under the commercial name of Buprenex and Butrans. Buprenorphine is also used to treat heroin addiction under the brand name of Subutex.

The new drug was then tested on monkeys which showed it does not slow breathing or disrupts the working of the cardiovascular system – the standard side-effects of morphine.


The study co-author Mei-Chuan Ko, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, says the new drug is also better at lowering pain than other over-the-counter painkillers. The effectiveness of the drug can be explained by its mechanism of action as it triggers certain receptors in the brain which activate chemical pathways which lead to pain relief. Ko shared the next step is to develop the drug in pill form.

Don’t Get Too Excited – Drug Needs More Testing Before It Gets Approval

While the discovery may seem promising many are skeptical about the functionality of the drug. Dr. Caleb Alexander, an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, believe even though it all seems interesting but the results are so far recorded in animal studies which are a poor example of predicting clinical outcomes in humans.

“Don’t hold your breath waiting for the first addiction-free opioid. There is not a product coming down the pike anytime soon with such characteristics,” said Dr. Alexander.

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