New drug discovered by team including Nobel Prize-winning chemist shows ‘promise’ as a replacement for opium-based drugs like morphine
Scientists believe they may have found a new form of painkiller that works just as well as morphine but lacks its potentially lethal side effect and is not addictive.
A team that included Nobel Prize-winning chemist Professor Brian Kobilka, of Stanford University in the US have discovered a new compound that not only seems to be more effective than morphine in controlling pain, but also has fewer side effects too.
Cancer patients suffering from pain not controlled with the usual painkillers such as paracetamol and codeine may be prescribed morphine. Whilst this is a very effective drug it can also cause severe constipation, nausea and in extreme cases, if too much is taken, it can affect the brain’s breathing centre.
The new compound PZM21 was tested in a laboratory study which compared the effectiveness and duration of pain relief from morphine and PZM21 in mice exposed to heat, The Independent reported. They found that PMZ21 could provide pain relief for up to 180 minutes at which point it was 40% effective compared to morphine which was only 5% effective at 180 minutes.
What’s more, PMZ21 did not cause the side effects commonly seen with morphine. The scientists stated that constipation was “substantially less than morphine” and the mice did not show signs of breathing difficulties or addiction which can also be seen with morphine.
This research helps take us one step closer to developing effective painkillers that are without the potentially lethal side effects of morphine. But this was an early stage experiment and significant further research will be needed before we will know if it has the same effect on humans.
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