Painkiller-dispensing patch could be an alternative to opioids
In order to keep patients from developing opioid addictions, it's best if doctors can avoid prescribing the things in the first place. A new surgical patch could help, by gradually releasing painkillers right where they're needed.
Developed by scientists at North Carolina's Duke University, the prototype polymer patch is loaded with a non-opioid drug – etoricoxib – that blocks the enzyme COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2), which drives pain and inflammation. Unlike other medical polymers, the biocompatible poly(ester urea) film used in its construction erodes slowly in wet environments, gradually releasing its pharmaceutical payload as it does so.
The idea is that the patch could be implanted at a surgical site within the patient's body, before the incision was closed up. It would then slowly release the painkiller over the crucial next few days of healing, sparing the patient from taking opioids. Additionally, because the medication would be delivered exactly where it was required, a lower dosage would be required, so there should be fewer side effects.
In its present form, the patch was shown to be effective at pain-blocking in mice for four days. That figure could be raised or lowered, however, simply by varying the surface area and thickness of the polymer film.
"If you can get four or five days of pain control out of the patch and not have to take those other pain drugs, not only do you avoid some of the side effects and risks of addiction, you’re concentrating therapy where you need it," says the lead scientist, Prof. Matthew Becker.
The research is described in a paper that was recently published in the Journal of Controlled Release.
Source: Duke University