Clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, Nektar Therapeutics, is currently studying a novel drug therapy for chronic pain that may impact the current treatment of fibromyalgia. The drug called NKTR-181 is expected to relieve pain, as well as reduce severe side effects associated with opioid use, which may in turn reduce the overuse of medication needed by fibromyalgia patients to fight both symptoms and side effects.
While chronic pain is the most prominent symptom of fibromyalgia, the standard treatment is with opioids, which comprises a market worth more than $10 billion in sales annually in the United States alone. However, this medication implicates the risk of suffering several side effects, including respiratory depression, sedation, or addiction.
Nektar aims to address the main symptom of chronic pain while being able to reduce the side effects associated with opioids through the mu-opioid analgesic NKTR-181, which has an innovative molecular structure and has already been examined within phase 2 clinical trials. It works by crossing the blood-brain barrier at a significantly slower rate than opioids, which reduces the entry time of the drug into the central nervous system.
The speed of entry is what allows NKTR-181 to eliminate the euphoria that is associated with opioid abuse and dependence, as well as severe side effects of the central nervous system, such as respiratory depression and sedation. In addition, the unique molecular structure of NKTR-181 was designed to avoid the conversion of the drug into a rapid-acting abusable form of an opioid.
Nektar expects to provide NKTR-181 as an effective analgesic with a favorable safety profile and with low potential of abuse and is currently preparing phase 3 clinical trials to continue the investigation of the drug.
In addition, the company is going to present the latest updates on NKTR-181 at the 31st Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Pain Medicine, which is taking place between March 19 and 22 at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. The event will gather academic specialists, medicine practitioners and industry leaders who will discuss the most important topics regarding pain within debates and educational sessions.
While opioids are the most common type of medication to treat chronic pain, the antidepressant therapy Venlafaxine, a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), has also recently been considered a potential therapy for fibromyalgia, based on a study entitled “A systematic review of the efficacy of venlafaxine for the treatment of fibromyalgia,” conducted by Luke A. VanderWeide.