New Opioid NKTR-181 Has Much Less Potential For Abuse, Reduces Euphoria
Nektar Therapeutics is developing a new opioid medication that they purport has much less potential for abuse than other medications, such as oxycodone, which are indicated for the treatment of moderate-severe pain.
The new painkiller, referred to as NKTR-181, is the first opioid designed to limit the effects that typically lead to abuse and dependence, such as euphoria.
The drug was tested in a study that included 54 recreational drug users, who reported experiencing a substantially less “drug liking” profile in the first few hours of administration. The amount received by study subjects ranged from the maximum therapeutic dose to an amount that was up to 12 times higher than that of normal doses of oxycodone.
Last March, the Food and Drug Administration awarded NKTR-181 the fast track designation, which is a status that permits a faster review of the drug. This action came after Nektar had reported positive results (an average decrease in pain of 65%) from a study of more than 600 individuals with chronic back pain.
The drug reduces euphoria and the potential for abuse due to its design – it has a low permeability across the blood-brain barriers, thus slowing the rate that the drug enters the brain. The study also notes that no “chemical or physical tampering method has yet been identified that can alter the NKTR-181 molecule” that would reduce its abuse potential based on its current properties.
Nektar researchers purport that NKTR-181 will be placed no higher than Class III in the DEA’s list of controlled substances, versus Class II which includes oxycodone and other opioids.
Nektar is biopharmaceutical company that finds and develops new drugs for which there significant unmet medical need. It is currently researching a number of new drugs, such as those to treat cancer and autoimmune disease in addition to chronic pain.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology