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Non-addictive drug in early development for chronic pain treatment

Researchers at Virginia Tech are testing a new drug for chronic pain treatment that may avoid the addictive effects of opioids.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin are commonly used for mild and moderate generalized pain but may have limited effectiveness in alleviating chronic nerve pain. NSAIDs inhibit the activity of cyclooxygenase enzymes responsible for making pain-inducing compounds called prostaglandins. However, certain enzymatic pathways are resistant to the effects of NSAIDs, and in these cases, patients have to rely on opioids for chronic pain management.

Researchers at the Virginia Tech School of Neuroscience in the United States have tested a novel compound called ML351, which targets a family of enzymes called 12/15-lipoxygenase. These enzymes were previously identified as an integral part of certain NSAID-resistant pain signaling pathways. Their study, published in the journal Pain, measured the effects of ML351 in mice with induced NSAID-resistant neuropathy.

They found that ML351 significantly inhibited 12/15-lipoxygenase activity. Externally, the mice exposed to ML351 showed a significant reduction in hypersensitivity, demonstrated as reduced levels of flinching in response to external stimuli. Given the dangers associated with long term opioid use, ML351 may be a promising alternative for chronic pain management.

There is a significant need for effective and safe first-line therapies for alleviating chronic pain. ML351 is still many years away from being on the market. Researchers hope to perform additional studies of the drug in animal models before progressing to human trials.

Written by Agustin Dominguez Iino, BSc


  1. Gregus AM, Buczynski MW, Dumlao DS, Norris PC, Rai G, Simeonov A, Maloney DJ, Jadhav A, Xu Q, Wei SC, Fitzsimmons BL, Dennis EA, Yaksh TL. Inhibition of spinal 15-LOX-1 attenuates TLR4-dependent, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug-unresponsive hyperalgesia in male rats. Pain. 2018 Dec;159(12):2620-2629. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001373.
  2. Virginia Tech News. Researchers developing nonopioid drug for chronic pain. EurekAlert!


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