WVU tests non-opioid implant to relieve chronic pain

MORGANTOWN — The Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute at WVU enrolled the first patient in a randomized clinical trial that will test the effectiveness of an injectable non-opioid, non-steroid micropellet to treat sciatica.
This major milestone is part of an ongoing commitment to battle opioid addiction, according to a press release from WVU Medicine.
The phase III clinical trial uses a clonidine micropellet, which is half the size of a grain of rice. The micropellet is placed in a patient’s lower back to combat sciatica pain for up to one year. The procedure was successfully completed earlier this month.
“Innovative technologies that act directly at a target location like this micropellet are crucial to reducing the need for systemic medications and opioids for chronic pain,” Dr. Ali Rezai, executive chair of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, said. “Our hope is that we can look back on this day and say we made a significant advance in the ongoing efforts to treat chronic pain and combat the opioid crisis.”
Rezai is not directly involved in the trial as he serves as a scientific adviser to Sollis Therapeutics, the Ohio-based interventional pain company developing the micropellet, according to the release.
With more than five million people in the U.S. affected by sciatica — one of the most common causes of back and leg pain — the micropellet can potentially provide patients with a pain-relief solution and an alternative to addictive opioid pain medications.
“Having the opportunity to investigate new non-opioid treatments for sciatica and a range of pain conditions is directly aligned with the WVU Medicine Center for Integrative Pain Management’s mission to combat the opioid crisis in West Virginia and nationwide,” Dr. Richard Vaglienti, principal investigator and director of the Center for Integrative Pain Management, said in the WVU Medicine release.
“Our doctors and researchers at the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute continue to do amazing things that will help make all of our lives better,” WVU President Gordon Gee said. “This kind of ground-breaking research would not be possible without the assistance of many people, including Gov. Jim Justice, Rep. David McKinley and Sens. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin, all of whom have been fully supportive of these initiatives.”
In West Virginia, where the number of opioid-related deaths is on course to set a record for overdose deaths this year, the micropellet procedure — if successful — could one day be a game-changer, according to the press release.
“Knowing that even a single day of opioid usage is associated with a probability that the patient will be taking opioids a year later underscores the need for innovations like ours to impact the opioid crisis,” said Dr. Gregory Fiore, president and CEO of Sollis Therapeutics. “We are pleased to team up with the researchers at the WVU RNI and other sites nationwide.”
Additional patients are expected to participate in the study at WVU. To see if you or a family member might be eligible, contact Angela Pugh by emailing ADPUGH@hsc.wvu.edu or calling 304-293-6780.

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