The opioid crisis has raised public awareness about the dire state of pain-management options for the estimated 50 million Americans with chronic pain.
As the crisis renews the call for researchers to find a pain relief method that is both powerful and safe, some pharmaceutical companies like SciSparc Ltd. SPRC say they are stepping up to find a solution. The clinical-stage pharmaceutical company states it has been developing a range of cannabinoids-derived treatments for a variety of central nervous system-related conditions, including pain.
In its latest move toward bringing better non-opioid treatments to market, SciSparc announced in May a collaboration agreement with Polyrizon Ltd., to develop a nasal spray version of SciSparc’s leading pain relief drug candidate SCI-160.
Pain Sufferers Often Must Choose Between Safety And Effectiveness In Pain Management
For mild pain relief, there’s acetaminophen, like Tylenol, or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, like ibuprofen. However, both of these carry the risk of liver damage, which increases with more frequent use or higher doses. Acetaminophen, in particular, is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
For more severe pain, you have muscle relaxers and opioids. While these provide powerful pain relief, they carry high risks and are not ideal for long-term use. Both muscle relaxers and opioids can cause liver damage and are extremely habit-forming and addictive.
With opioids like those sold by Purdue Pharma, Johnson & Johnson JNJ, AmerisourceBergen Corp. ABC, Cardinal Health Inc. CAH and McKesson Corp. MCK, even short-term use can cause physical and psychological dependency.
When taking an opioid for six months or longer, the body can become dependent on the drug to maintain the status quo. Even if the acute pain the patient was initially taking it for is gone, stopping treatment can lead to new pain in the form of physical withdrawals from the drug.
In addition to that physical dependency, the pleasant feelings that come with the endorphin release triggered by opioids can create a psychological addiction, making it even harder to stop treatment.
These habit-forming effects are so strong that between 21% and 29% of patients prescribed opioids end up misusing them. That misuse leads to millions of cases of addiction each year and reportedly caused over 263,000 overdose deaths between 1999 and 2020. In 2020 nearly 69,000 people have died from opioid overdoses.
Nevertheless, opioids remain some of the most powerful tools in pain management because of how effectively they treat even the most intense pain.
This has created a need for pharmaceutical companies and biotechs to discover and develop non-opioid alternatives that can offer a similar mechanism of action without the same risks of addictions and overdose.
SciSparc Believes Its SCI-160 Platform May Offer A Solution To The Pain Management Dilemma
To meet that challenge, SciSparc has developed a portfolio of cannabinoid-derived drug candidates, including the SCI-160 compound that will be developed also as nasal spray.
A growing body of research on cannabinoids and pain relief has found that they are able to act on the central nervous system to regulate the pain response similarly to opioids while also providing anti-inflammatory effects.
The synthetic CB2 receptor agonist in SCI-160, for example, is a cannabinoid receptor agonist that binds to CB2 receptors throughout the central nervous system to block both inflammation and pain responses. Research has shown that these CB2 receptor agonists offer significant pain relief for acute pain, chronic pain and cancer-related pain. In the cancer study, the pain relief was comparable to that of morphine.
SciSparc’s own research into its SCI-160 drug candidate has shown similar potency. A series of preclinical trials involving rodents found that the company’s synthetic cannabinoid was as good as or even more effective than morphine at alleviating the pain response.
Meanwhile, the compound may have a much better safety profile than opioids.
Research on cannabinoids and cannabinoids-derived compounds found little to no serious adverse effects. The most common side effects were mild drowsiness and dizziness. While the data on safety during long-term use is still limited, it’s all but impossible to overdose on cannabinoids, and evidence suggests the body doesn’t build up a tolerance as easily. Because the CB2 agonists don’t come with the same psychoactive effects, the potential for misuse is also expected to be lower.
Overall, SCI-160’s formula has the potential to offer just what pain sufferers are looking for: the powerful pain relief opioids offer without the risk of addiction, overdose or other harmful health effects.
Collaboration With Polyrizon Hoped To Offer Even More Effective, Longer-Lasting Pain Relief
Under the collaboration agreement, the two companies say they will develop an innovative pain relief treatment that delivers SciSparc’s promising SCI-160 drug candidate directly to the brain via Polyrizon’s Trap and Target intranasal drug delivery technology.
By delivering the compound directly to the brain, the companies hope to better target the central nervous system, providing stronger pain relief. Additionally, the Trap and Target platform’s ability to offer sustained release by keeping the drug in the mucosal tissue of the nasal cavity for a long time may help the treatment last longer than standard oral delivery.
The companies state that the ideal potential of this combination is a powerful, fast-acting, long-lasting pain relief treatment that is safe to use over the long term and carries little to no adverse effects or addiction risks.
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