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Opiate alternative: Researchers discover new effective and non-addictive pain reliever


UKH-1114 can be used effectively for pain relief
Today there is an increasing abuse of so-called opioid pain relievers. In the United States, doctors are already talking about a true epidemic of abuse. Researchers have now discovered a pain reliever that works against pain in a previously unknown way. The drug can be used to relieve pain from neuropathic pain.

In their investigation, scientists from the University of Texas at Austin found that a new drug called UKH-1114 can be used effectively to relieve pain without triggering adverse effects comparable to opioids. This could prevent dependence on and abuse of opioids in the future. The doctors released a press release on the results of their study.

UKH-1114 works at a very low dose and the effects last for a long time
The pain reliever UKH-1114 is just as effective in relieving neuropathic pain in injured mice as a widely used pain reliever called gabapentin, experts say. However, UKH-1114 works at a much lower dose and the effects last longer.

Millions of people are addicted to opioid pain relievers
If further studies confirm that the new drug is safe and effective without being addictive, it could help end the opioid abuse epidemic, the researchers explain. In America alone, about a third of people suffer from chronic pain. However, the most effective pain relievers are addictive and require increasing doses to be effective over time, the authors say. About two million people in the United States are addicted to prescription opioid pain relievers.

Other drugs used to treat neuropathic pain often cause side effects
The alternatives to treatment with opioids available so far also have some disadvantages. For example, the drug gabapentin (sold under the name Neurontin) can cause cognitive impairment in certain people. Such side effects show that it is necessary to develop a treatment for neuropathic pain that is not based on opioids, the scientists explain. The newly discovered pain reliever binds to a receptor on the cells in the entire central nervous system, which is known as the Sigma 2 receptor. Although the receptor was discovered 25 years ago, the researchers were still unsure of the function of Sigma 2.

UKH-1114 benefits over other pain relievers
The doctors tested UKH-1114 on mice with nerve damage. They found that the drug relieved pain as effectively as gabapentin, but at a much lower dose (about a sixth of gabapentin). The effects of UKH-1114 lasted for a few days much longer than the effects of gabapentin, which was only four to six hours.

Neuropathic pain can also be triggered by chemotherapy and diabetes
The Sigma-2 receptor can thus be a target for the treatment of neuropathic pain, the experts say. So-called neuropathic pain or chronic pain occurs when nerves in the central nervous system are damaged. This type of pain can also be caused by chemotherapy, diabetes, and brain or spinal cord injuries, the scientists add.

More research is needed
However, there is still a lot of work to be done before UKH-1114 can be launched, the researchers emphasize. Further studies are needed to demonstrate safety, efficacy, and oral bioavailability, the study's authors explain. The scientists are also currently investigating how exactly activation of the Sigma 2 receptor relieves neuropathic pain. Physicians are just beginning their research, but it can already be assumed that the discovery of a new pain reliever can significantly improve people's quality of life. (as)

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