New opioid pain drug decreases tolerance, side effects

Sufferers of chronic pain could have a new form of relief in the near future. That's because a team of researchers led by the University of Maryland's Andrew Coop has developed a novel compound with the potential to eliminate most of the adverse side effects associated with opioid pain drugs.

For more than two decades, Coop has been working to develop an analgesic that could improve the quality of life for individuals living with chronic pain.

Morphine has long been used as a common pain treatment, but like other opioids, it carries the risks of tolerance and dependence. Current chronic pain medications also have their share of unwanted side effects, including nausea and constipation. When patients become tolerant to a certain dosage, a higher dosage is needed to treat pain effectively, but that higher dose also increases the side effects of the drug.

What's different about the compound Coop designed--known as UMB 425--is that it acts on two different opioid receptors in the body instead of one selective target. When both targets are activated at the same time they work together to provide pain relief and slow the body's development of tolerance to the drug.

Coop told FierceBiotechResearch that chronic pain is on the verge of becoming a big public health concern.

"The major problem in healthcare in the coming years is the aging baby boom population," said Coop, a professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. With medical advances, people are living longer and getting healthier, but Coop predicts there will be a significant population of people that is otherwise healthy but living with chronic pain issues. "[UMB 425] has the potential to impact a large range of patient populations."

When tested in mice, Coop and his collaborators found that the drug was as strong as morphine and displayed diminished tolerance over time with no obvious toxic effects. Coop's team's research was recently published in ACS Chemical Neuroscience.

Coop said he has filed a patent application for the compound and is currently searching for industry collaborators to test the drug in toxicology studies and in other animals. He said with an industry partner, it's possible that the drug could reach clinical trials within 5 years.

- read the press release
- here's the study abstract