Scientists are working to develop opioid painkillers with a low potential for abuse.
About a dozen such drugs are currently in development, according to The Courier-Journal.
"Is (a non-addictive opioid) a possibility? Absolutely. And there are a lot of people devoting a lot of time and effort to it," Dr. Gavril Pasternak, an opioid researcher at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told the newspaper. "It could be ready relatively soon. ... In the short-term, it may be a major help."
One such drug in development is called CR845. Cara Therapeutics, the company that makes the drug, recently released research that suggests it is much less likely to cause patients to feel high compared with pentazocine, another opioid analgesic.
"We need safer medications," said Dr. Lynn Webster, lead investigator on the trial of CR845 and immediate past president of the American Academy of Pain Medicine. "They will not solve the problem of prescription drug abuse, but they will reduce overdose deaths."
CR845 works on different nerve-ending receptors than traditional pain medicines, according to the article. Researchers believe the drug doesn't enter a patient's brain. Cara tested an intravenous version of the drug for post-operative pain in the hospital. It plans to submit a new drug application to the Food and Drug Administration in 2016. The company is also developing an oral version of CR845 for chronic pain. Cara intends to submit a new drug application for the oral drug in 2017.
"I hope that they continue to work on development of such drugs. But I'm skeptical," said Van Ingram, Executive Director of the Kentucky Office of Drug Control Policy. "From the Kentucky perspective, we just have not had a good experience with opioid drugs." He added, "It wasn't that long ago we were told (OxyContin) wasn't that addictive."