USA- Vertex Pharmaceuticals, a US-based firm that invests in medicine so people with serious diseases can lead better lives, has succesfully developed a non-opioid painkiller, meeting its primary goal of an experimental drug in late-stage trials.
This drug effectively reduced acute post-surgical pain without the associated risk of addiction, marking a crucial milestone in the company’s prolonged endeavor to introduce a non-opioid pain medicine to the market.
The experimental drug, known as VX-548, operates by intercepting pain signals at their source before reaching the brain.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals plans to submit the drug for U.S. approval by mid-2024, and analysts estimate potential annual sales exceeding $5 billion if approved.
In two late-stage studies, the drug outperformed a placebo in diminishing pain intensity after 48 hours. However, it fell short of the secondary goal to reduce pain when compared to a combination of the opioid drug hydrocodone and acetaminophen.
Despite this, analysts view the results as a success for Vertex, anticipating approval for the treatment of acute pain. This development offers a crucial alternative to addictive opioid painkillers that have contributed to a national crisis.
While the drug effectively blocks pain signals at the source, opioids activate the brain’s reward centers, leading to addiction and abuse.
Vertex emphasized the safety and tolerability of VX-548 in trials involving approximately 2,400 patients, with common side effects being nausea and constipation.
Although Vertex’s drug might not replace opioid pain medicines entirely, it presents a much-needed alternative for the roughly 80 million U.S. patients prescribed medicine for moderate-to-severe acute pain annually.
Despite a slight dip in Vertex’s stock in early trading, analysts maintain optimism, recognizing the drug’s potential impact on addressing the opioid crisis and providing relief for patients in need of pain management.
“I don’t think anybody expects that this drug will replace or mean the end of opioid pain medicines, but it absolutely offers an alternative that is sorely needed,” Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond said ahead of data.