Neuropathic pain affects up to ten percent of the population in Europe and the USA. It has highly detrimental effects on quality of life, impairing everyday activities, social functioning as well as physical well-being. Neuropathic pain can be so severe that some patients are not even able to wear regular clothes.
Market growth is driven by a globally ageing population with an increasing prevalence of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, which is one common cause of neuropathic pain. Other common causes are injuries, chemotherapy and shingles.
Insufficient treatments, life-threatening side effects
There are currently no pain-relieving drugs explicitly developed for neuropathic pain. Current treatments, such as medicines for epilepsy and depression, are inadequate and associated with severe side effects.
Conventional opioid compounds, such as morphine and oxycodone, are very useful in treating acute pain, but they are much less effective against chronic neuropathic pain, and they are not officially recommended by national advisory bodies.
Also, conventional opioids that affect the mu-receptor have significant, possibly life-threatening side effects (respiratory depression, nausea, constipation and itching). Patients treated with conventional opioids quickly become tolerant to their analgesic (pain-reducing) effect, necessitating increased doses with an increased risk of toxicity. Furthermore, the euphoric effects of classical opioids like morphine have resulted in an epidemic of opioid overuse, particularly in the USA, leading to thousands of deaths and costing health services billions of dollars which have led to multiple lawsuits against Big Pharma companies.
PharmNovo’s drug candidate PN6047 does not affect the mu-receptor. Instead, it selectively activates the delta receptor (DOR) in the endogenous opioid system and is expected to provide safe and effective relief of neuropathic pain. The candidate has the potential to be first-in-class.
The estimated direct and indirect healthcare costs for neuropathic pain disorders in the European Member States vary between 2 and 3% of GDP . In 2016, this estimate would result in a cost of up to 440 billion Euros. Introducing an effective and safe treatment for neuropathic pain would save the member states high costs and improve the quality of life for their people.