New Non-Opioid Pain Med Could Be First Alternative In Years

Jun 30, 2017

Eli Lilly is partnering with Pfizer to help develop a new drug that could be the first of a new class of non-opioid pain medications.

There hasn’t been a new pain medication discovery in about 50 years. The last new non-opioid pain medication to hit the market was ibuprofen in the late 1960s.

That’s a problem, because Indiana University Health’s Daniel Rusyniak says when it comes to the treatment of chronic pain we need more options.

“We know from our recent experience over the last 20-30 years that treating chronic pain with prescription opioids had a lot of unintended consequences,” says Rusyniak.

Those unintended consequences include the current drug abuse epidemic and a spike in overdose deaths. Rusyniak says prescribers would welcome a new option.

“Physicans right now are very limited in the treatments that we have available,” Rusyniak says.

Scientists at Eli Lilly partnered with Pfizer in 2013 to work on a new type of non-opioid pain medication called Tanezumab. The drug is now in late stage trials.

Ken Verburg, chief development officer for Pfizer says recent clinical trials of the injectable drug are promising.

“It has surpassed what you observe with traditional available oral medications,” says Verburg. “And it lasts for two months before you need another administration of the drug.

He says trial participants report a significant decline in pain and the drug seems to be low risk.

Eli Lilly brand development leader Diane Bakaysa says that’s exciting because there is such a need.

“Millions of Americans wake up every day and go to bed every night still with painful symptoms,” Bakaysa says.

She explains that Tanezumab works by blocking what are called nerve growth factor inhibitors. “The goal is we’re going to stop that pain signal for patients that need an alternative.” Bakaysa says.

The FDA recently “fast-tracked” Tanezumab. Trial data is expected some time next year.