Pharmaceutical company Vertex this week said it has developed an experimental medication that relieves moderate to severe pain while avoiding the potential for addiction that comes with opioids, The New York Times reports.
The medication blocks pain signals before they can get to the brain. Unlike opioids, the new medication works only on peripheral nerves, which are outside the brain and spinal cord.
Vertex says it has completed two clinical trials of the medication. The first trial included 1,118 people who had abdominoplasties (“tummy tucks”) and the second trial included 1,073 people who had bunion surgery. Patients in the trials rated their pain severity from 1 to 10. Those who took the medication, VX-548, had a statistically and clinically meaningful reduction in pain, the company said. A third study evaluated safety and tolerability of VX-548 in people experiencing pain from a variety of conditions.
The company said it plans to apply to the Food and Drug Administration by the middle of 2024 for approval to market the medication.
Dr. Henry Kranzler, director of the Center for Studies of Addiction at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said the medication is “a therapeutic breakthrough.” He noted that at least for acute pain, “it looks very promising.” He said the medication’s effectiveness was not better, but also not worse, than the opioid oxycodone.