The Research Project, Week Nineteen, Maine Pain Relief

The University of New England and Southern Research of Birmingham, Alabama have won a $4.5 million, five-year grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) of the National Institutes of Health to develop opioid drugs for the treatment of chronic pain. Specifically, the grant is for developing opioid drugs that have fewer adverse effects than currently marketed opioid pain-relief medications.

Chronic pain affects an estimated 100 million Americans. The economic burden of chronic pain in the U.S. was recently estimated at approximately $600 billion per year ­­– greater than the combined annual cost of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Opioids, which include hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, codeine and related drugs are currently the most useful treatments available for moderate to severe acute and chronic pain, but their therapeutic use is limited due to their tendency to produce adverse side effects. With longer-term use, abuse is also a factor including physical dependence, and addiction.

The research will be performed by a team of scientists at the University of New England including Edward Bilsky, Ph.D., UNE vice-president for Research and Scholarship, Karen Houseknecht, Ph.D., UNE professor of Pharmacology, and John Streicher, Ph.D., assistant professor of biomedical sciences. Subramaniam Ananthan, Ph.D., principal research scientist in drug discovery at Southern Research will lead the research.

“The over-prescribing and over-use of traditional opioid analgesics has contributed to diversion of these medications and their misuse and abuse,” said Bilsky. “From our previous research, we have a better understanding of the neurobiology of opioid systems, pain and addiction, and have made great strides toward developing drugs that provide pain relief while having greatly reduced side effects. This new grant award from the National Institutes of Health is timely and critical for advancing the project towards the goal of having a clinical drug candidate for treatment of acute and chronic pain.”

This sounds like a win-win to me; finding a pain medicine that is just as effective at morphine without the side effects!

The University of New England has two campuses in Maine and in 2014 opened a campus in Tangier, Morocco. All the classes in Morocco are taught in English and students are free to explore the fabulous Moroccan cities like Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh, as well as to the natural wonders of the Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert.

Southern Research is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization with nearly 500 scientists and engineers working across four divisions: Drug Discovery, Drug Development, Engineering, and Energy & Environment.

Links to the articles this blog is based on:

http://www.une.edu/news/2015/une-awarded-5-year-45-million-nih-grant-develop-opioid-drugs-diminished-side-effects

http://www.southernresearch.org/southern-research-awarded-5-year-4-5m-nih-grant-to-develop-opioid-drugs-with-diminished-side-effects/

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