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NIH Grant to Fund R&D on Pain Meds With Fewer Side Effects

Back pain (FDA)

(U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida has received a grant from National Institute on Drug Abuse, part of National Institutes of Health (NIH), for research on compounds that lead to new pain medications without the side effects of opiate drugs. The five-year, $3.1 million award will support a Scripps team led by neuroscientist Laura Bohn and chemist Thomas Bannister.

The adverse side effects of morphine and prescribed opiate drugs, such as Oxycontin and Vicoden, can range from constipation to more serious and dangerous conditions: addiction, respiratory suppression, and death by overdose. The study by Bohn and Bannister aims to focus on four new classes of compounds that appear to differ from opiates in their production of these side effects.

These new compounds work similarly to opiates in that they bind and activate the same mu opioid receptor as morphine, but without recruiting the protein beta arrestin 2. Preclinical studies suggest that test animals given compounds without beta-arrestins experience robust pain relief with fewer side effects.

The researchers are encouraged that Bannister’s medicinal chemistry group were able to synthesize compounds in these four chemical classes. “While we expected to find pain relievers, says Bannister, “we were thrilled to see that some compounds also had the chemical and biological properties necessary for showing reduced side effects.”

“Once we more fully understand how these compounds work,” adds Bohn, “we expect to optimize and develop them as novel drugs.”

Read more: FDA Approves Opioid Analgesic for Chronic Pain

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