The Creation of Non-Addictive Opioids

American dependence on opioid pain medications has created an epidemic that has swept across the country, resulting in a resurgence of heroin on the black market. While many researchers struggle to create abuse-deterrent opioids, drugs whose euphoric effects would be rendered ineffective if used inappropriately; another group is working on the creation of non-addictive opioids, drugs that would diminish the pain without getting the patient high.

In fact, there are a number of medications with a low potential for abuse currently in development, according to The Courier-Journal. There are about a dozen such drugs being developed, with the same goal, said Dr. Gavril Pasternak, an opioid researcher and expert at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

“Is (a non-addictive opioid) a possibility? Absolutely. And there are a lot of people devoting a lot of time and effort to it,” Pasternak told the newspaper. “It could be ready relatively soon. … In the short-term, it may be a major help.”

Cara Therapeutics is working on a drug called CR845. New research suggests that CR845 is much less likely to cause patients to feel high compared to “control” medicine, pentazocine, considered to have a low potential for abuse. What separates CR845 from other opioid medications is the drug’s ability to work on different nerve-ending receptors and researchers believe that the drug does not enter the patient’s brain, according to the article.

“We need safer medications,” said Dr. Lynn Webster, lead investigator on the trial of CR845 and former president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. “They will not solve the problem of prescription drug abuse, but they will reduce overdose deaths.”

Cara plans to submit a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration in 2016, as well as an application for an oral form of the drug in 2017.

The steps that Cara Therapeutics and others are taking to reduce the opioid problem are, without question, in the right direction. However, there are some in the field of addiction that are unsure about the claims, the article reports.

“I hope that they continue to work on development of such drugs. But I’m skeptical,” said Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. “It wasn’t that long ago we were told (OxyContin) wasn’t that addictive.”

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