A new pain pellet that scientists are developing in Columbus is about half the size of a grain of rice, but researchers say it delivers a big dose of relief that could one day help fight the opioid epidemic.
The tiny rod holds a nonaddictive painkiller that doctors could insert in the lower back, much like an epidural, to give a patient a break from the chronic or acute pain, said Dr. Ali Rezai, director of the Neurological Institute at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center. He would not reveal the painkiller, saying only that it is a drug that already has been used successfully as a cardiovascular medication.
A small trial of 55 people with sciatica — pain in the lower back and legs — showed that the pellet stopped the pain for up to one year and was safe and easy to use, Fiore said. Researchers will next seek to perform a large clinical trial, hoping to confirm effectiveness and safety. The trial will involve a broader group of people culled from pain centers across Ohio.
Opioids are commonly used to treat chronic pain, Rezai said.
But the highly addictive nature of the medications, Fiore said, is a reason to find alternatives. Someone who takes opioids for a single day, for example, has a 6 percent chance of being addicted a year later.
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