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New Opioid Compound Isn’t Addictive, Researchers Say

One problem with opioid analgesics is a patient can become addicted to them long after the underlying pain has been alleviated. Using non-addictive painkillers may be one of the ways to hinder the country’s opioid epidemic.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center researchers suggest a new painkilling compound isn’t addictive, nor does it have adverse respiratory side effects like other opioids. Their study’s findings are published in the most recent online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This undated photo released by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shows seized counterfeit hydrocodone tablets from an investigation in the Sacramento, Calif., area. (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration via AP)

The investigators examined behavioral, physiological and pharmacologic factors in 12 non-human primates, and targeted a combination of classical and non-classical opioid receptors. The researchers found that the opioid compound BU08028 blocked the detection of pain without typical adverse effects (respiratory depression, itching or adverse cardiovascular events).

“Non-human primate models have a huge translational potential as they are known for their close neurophysiology and drug reactions to opioids as humans,” said lead study author Mei-Chuan Ko, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest Baptist, in an email. “With this promising efficacy and tolerability profile, a drug with the BU08028-like profile will be a new generation of buprenorphine without abuse liability concern.”

The researchers also learned the pain relief lasted up to 30 hours. Repeated administration of the compound didn’t cause physical dependence.

“Toxicity studies need to be completed to know more about the pharmacokinetic profiles of candidate compounds,” he said. “Formulation needs to be improved, depending on the delivery route of the candidate compounds.”


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