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Seattle drug company working on non-addictive, non-opioid painkiller

Photo by The Javorac, CC Images.
LISTEN: Seattle drug company working on non addictive, non opioid pain killer

According to a recent report by the New York Times, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. The Times reports 19 percent more drug overdose deaths in 2016 than in 2015 and the numbers for 2017 continue to rise.

Many of these deaths are the result of opioid painkillers, which is why Seattle drug company Kineta is developing a non-opioid painkiller with no addictive qualities.

“It doesn’t have a generic name yet so we call it KCP-400,” Kineta’s CEO, Shawn Iadonato, explained. “It’s a non-opioid for the treatment of pain. It’s different than things like morphine, OxyContin, things like that. What’s real exciting about the drug is it’s very effective pain treatment but it also has anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects.”

Kineta’s vice president of Research and Development, Kristin Bedard, says there’s nothing quite like it on the market now.

“KCP-400 will be the first in this class of drugs,” she said. “It is very unique because not only is it analgesic, which means that it can relieve the pain, but it has these disease modifying effects. So it can really treat, not just the symptoms, but what’s causing the chronic pain.”

Iadonato says it can treat ailments such as lower back pain, diabetic peripheral neuropathy and chemotherapy induced neuropathies for cancer patients.

“Those are the types of pain that are longer term pain that are really harder to treat with opioids because opioids typically stop working after a while. People need to take more, they develop tolerance and it becomes riskier and riskier to the patient,” Iadonato said.

Bedard explains why KCP-400 does not have the addictive quality other opioid painkillers do.

“The drug targets the peripheral nervous system,” Bedard said. “So it targets where a patient has the occurrence of pain but it doesn’t go to the brain so you don’t have those issues with side effects, addiction, that type of thing.”

The drug originates from snails.

“It was originally identified in a cone snail that grows off the coast of the Caribbean,” Iadonato said. “Now it’s a fully synthetic product. Maybe half the drugs that we take come from natural products. Animal venoms are a really rich source of drugs. It’s a poison to the fish that the [snail] hunts. The snail has a little spear that it shoots at the fish and that paralyzes the fish and gives the snail time to eat it.”

To give you an idea of how many addictive opioid painkillers are out there:

“I think last year there were 260 million opioid prescriptions written so that’s essentially one prescription for every adult in the United States,” Iadonato said.

KCP-400 has been performing well on animals and next year it will go into human trials. It’s still about four or five years away from being approved to hit the market.

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