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Pain Management Health Center

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Got Pain? Researchers Have Some Ideas That May Surprise You


The lowly snail is making headlines, too, with reports that venom from the cone snail, which lives on the coast of the Philippines, is a potent drug for relieving pain after surgery and some types of chronic pain. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University and elsewhere have used a compound from the venom -- and say it is a thousand times more potent than morphine, and an option for very ill patients who do not respond to morphine.

Then there is the poisonous Ecuadorian frog known as Epipedobates tricolor, which secretes a substance on its skin to kill predators. The substance possesses pain-relieving properties hundreds of times more potent than morphine, but is too poisonous for human use. The drug company Abbott Laboratories has developed a synthetic version of the substance that is being tested for both acute and chronic pain.

A promising treatment for diabetes-related pain is a drug known as Prosaptide TX14A, developed by John S. O'Brien, MD, a professor of neuroscience at the University of California in San Diego. Myelos Neuroscience of San Diego has completed early tests of the drug in 150 patients.

"We saw very good efficacy results and very good safety results with no significant adverse events," Robert Schuessler, director of clinical and regulatory affairs at Myelos, tells WebMD. The company believes the daily injection works on the underlying cause of the pain, but stresses that this is a theory based on animal testing. If future studies confirm the safety and efficacy of the drug, the company plans to file an application for approval with the FDA.

Some researchers are also looking at ways to use gene therapy to deliver drugs to specific pain sites in the body. And, there is hope that new methods of diagnosing the specific cause of an individual's pain will soon be available, allowing doctors to use that information in selecting pain-killing drugs.

Vital Information:

  • Current therapies used to treat pain include drugs that suppress inflammation, which work for mild to moderate pain, or narcotic agents, which can be addictive.
  • With so few choices for treatment, pain is often difficult to treat adequately.
  • New research into pain treatments is focusing on compounds from marijuana, hot peppers, snail venom, and secretions from a poisonous frog.
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