Pfizer, Lilly Working on Opioid-Free Drug for Specific Chronic Pain

Pfizer and Eli Lilly and Company are working on a non-opioid drug to treat chronic pain in patients with osteoarthritis and chronic low back pain. 

The medication, Tanezumab, would selectively target, bind to and prevent nerve growth factor. Pfizer said the drug acts differently than opioids.

"Tanezumab has the potential to be a new, non-opioid treatment with sustained efficacy for moderate to severe osteoarthritis pain, chronic low back pain and cancer pain patients who do not receive adequate relief or cannot tolerate or take other analgesics," Pfizer said in a statement to NBC Connecticut.

Tanezumab is currently in the third phase of a global clinical development program that includes six studies "in approximately 7,000 patients with osteoarthritis pain (OA), chronic low back pain (CLBP) or cancer pain (due to bone metastases) who did not experience adequate pain relief with approved therapies."

"If ultimately approved, Tanezumab would be the first in a new class of non-opioid chronic pain medications," according to Pfizer.

In June, Tanezumab received fast track designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The designation facilitates "the development, and expedite the review of drugs to treat serious conditions and fill an unmet medical need," according to the FDA website.

Dr. Sudhir Kadian of Shoreline Pain Center and Anesthesia Associates of New London said opioids could be used on appropriate patients, but non-opioid treatments are underutilized.

"Other alternative models of pain management is as effective as the opioids if used properly and in combinations with opioids or without opioids," Kadian said.

Kadian said more opioid-free optoins are needed. 

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