When Life Hurts: Chronic Pain and the Quest for Less-Addicting Opioids

young sick looking man suffering mental disorder or depression

(DGIwire) – Pain is arguably the most common of all health complaints, with the discomfort usually short-lived. For many, however, pain is not easily reduced or eliminated. Insights on this dilemma were recently provided by Dr. William H. McCarberg, a founding member of the Chronic Pain Management Program at Kaiser Permanente, San Diego, and voluntary assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Diego.

McCarberg conducted a survey using PubMed.gov, an online resource of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. The survey was designed to assess the physical, psychological and economic impact pain has on the lives of individuals suffering pain, and to identify the unmet needs of patients who have taken opioid medications to treat their pain. McCarberg also examined how difficult it is for doctors to effectively treat patients with chronic pain, since determining the best treatment option has become an increasingly exacting science.

Not surprisingly, the survey results supported what many physicians observe in their practice and hear from patients—pain negatively impacts quality of life. Many chronic pain sufferers gave evidence of the effect on their mental health, employment status, sleep and personal relationships. The survey also found a majority of doctors agreed that pain management is a science still being perfected. In terms of treatment, the survey found inadequate pain control, end-of-dose pain and side effects associated with increased dosing were reported as negative factors influencing patients’ choice of pain medication. Clearly, there must be effective communication between physicians and patients to improve overall pain management and establish shared treatment goals with functional outcomes.

One specialty pharmaceutical company focused on addressing the problem of pain management using a different type of opioid—one that is classified as less likely to be abused by the Drug Enforcement Administration—is BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI). BDSI utilizes its proprietary BioErodible MucoAdhesive (BEMA®) drug delivery technology to develop and commercialize new applications of proven therapies aimed at addressing important unmet medical needs.

BDSI and its partner, Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., recently announced positive top-line results from a pivotal Phase III efficacy study of an investigational treatment, BEMA Buprenorphine, in opioid-experienced patients. BEMA Buprenorphine was studied as a treatment for chronic lower back pain.

Dr. Mark A. Sirgo, President and CEO of BDSI, says, “We are pleased with the outcome of this trial in opioid-experienced patients, as we continue to develop an opioid with a lower risk of abuse compared to Schedule II opioids such as oxycodone and morphine.

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