New Drug Could Relieve Severe Pain Without Addiction

A Boston pharmaceutical company has developed an experimental drug that relieves moderate to severe pain by working on peripheral nerves — those outside the brain and the spinal cord — making it unlike opioids.

“Vertex Pharmaceuticals says its new drug is expected to avoid opioids’ potential to lead to addiction,” according toThe New York Times.

The positive news was tempered by the failure to hit key secondary endpoints designed to show the non-opioid medicine is more effective than Vicodin, an existing, widely used painkiller,  according to FierceBiotech.



The company plans to file for U.S. approval by mid-2024 for the drug. If approved, it could achieve annual sales of more than $5 billion, according to analysts, per Reuters.

The company’s shares closed the trading session more than 2% higher in price on Tuesday.

“An effective, non-opioid pain treatment would likely be highly successful if and when it hits the market,” accordant to Yahoo Finance. “While opioid medications can be very effective, they carry the very serious risk of addiction if not prescribed and administered carefully.”

Acute pain is often caused by injury, surgery, illness, trauma or painful medical procedures. Around 80 million patients are prescribed a medicine for their moderate-to-severe acute pain every year in the U.S., Vertex said in a release.

“Wall Street analysts have said that the drug, which works by blocking pain signals at its origin before they reach the brain, could become a blockbuster drug if it wins approval from regulators, estimating its annual sales could exceed $1 billion,” according to CNBC

Attempts to bring new opioid alternatives to market by drugmakers such as Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have failed in trials.

"I don't think anybody expects that this drug will replace or mean the end of opioid pain medicines, but it absolutely offers an alternative that is sorely needed," Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond said ahead of data, according to Reuters. 

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