Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center have developed the first under-the-skin narcotic drug implant for the treatment of pain in cancer patients. The researchers believe that the polymer implant could offer an alternative to external drug delivery systems used to treat serious pain and may be a potential technique for the management of drug addiction.
The button-sized polymer works much like the continuous-release birth control implant. It will be inserted under the skin through a tiny incision made under mild, local anesthetic. The polymer contains a highly concentrated powder form of the commonly used narcotic drug hydromorphone. The drug is released in a steady amount into the bloodstream over one to three months.
The shape and size of the polymer, which is made at Hopkins, controls the release of pain medication. "Different polymers will be available to meet the needs of a particular patient, so that patients requiring more pain control can get polymers that release more drug, and those with very stable requirements for pain medications can get one that lasts longer," says Stuart Grossman, M.D., associate professor of oncology and director of the Center's cancer pain program.
Results of safety tests of the polymer in animals are reported in the July 1996, issue of Pain, and human trials should begin within a year, he said.
Grossman and his team began developing the pain polymer five years ago as an inexpensive, abuse-resistant way of offering pain management to people in developing nations, where cancer rates are high, but little or no treatment for pain is available.
"India produces 80 percent of the world's opiates, yet only a minuscule amount of oral morphine was prescribed to cancer patients last year," says Grossman. "Because of limited financial resources as well as widespread concern about uncontrolled use of narcotics, governments in developing countries historically have limited the availability of narcotics for the m
Contact: Karin Twilde
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions