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Relief At Last? The Next Generation Of Opioid Drugs, Fibromyalgia And Chronic Pain
Monday 20 February 2017
Relief at Last? The Next Generation of Opioid Drugs, Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain
Twenty billion dollars a year… That’s how much Americans in chronic pain spend on prescription pain-killers every year. Most of these are opioid drugs, but the increasing regulatory burden foisted on them and the growing realization of how ineffective and even harmful they can be means their days are numbered.
Three non-opioid drugs have been approved for fibromyalgia but studies suggest that they’ve been of limited effectiveness in reducing pain in the overall fibromyalgia population. Surveys suggest that about thirty percent of FM patients take opioids and many consider them more effective than the FDA-approved FM drugs.
Solutions to the chronic pain problem will probably come in many forms, but one of the more intriguing is more effective and safer next-generation opioids. Recently a Smithsonian article, “America’s Long-Overdue Opioid Revolution Is Finally Here”, suggested that if the opioid revolution is not quite here yet, it’s coming fast.
In the early 2000’s researchers realized that opioid receptors were more complex than they had thought. Depending on how they were activated these receptors could turn on two pathways; the “good” pathway – which turned down nerve pain activity – and the “bad” pathway which turned down pain nerve activity but also caused things like respiratory depression, addiction and constipation.
You can guess which pathway virtually all the current crop of opioid pain-killers is using. The finding sparked efforts to create forms of opioid drugs. Currently three drugs are leading the pack, but better ones may be coming as researchers better understand how the opioid receptors work.
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