News December, 2011 Issue

In The News: December 2011

Nasal Injection May Speed Pain Medication Response

A new approach to delivering drugs may allow morphine and other strong medications to be targeted directly to the central nervous system. Researchers at the University of Washington, who have developed and tested a “pressurized olfactory device” (POD) in mice, say a similar technique used in humans might provide an effective technique for the administration of opioid drugs. The result, they claim, would be improved pain control with fewer side effects and faster action. The POD is designed to deliver morphine with greater accuracy to the olfactory region of the nasal cavity, a tiny area between the nose and brain that is an attractive target for drugs targeting the central nervous system (CNS). With POD injection, 38 to 55 percent of the morphine dose was directly transported to the CNS, thus providing greater pain relief without increasing the drug’s concentration in the blood. Although a preliminary concept, researchers say the POD could lead to the development of new types of pain killers that could not be effectively administered by traditional methods.

PPIs May Aggravate NSAID Small Intestine Damage

If you’re using drugs to lower stomach acid and reduce your chance of ulcers from taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the combination may be causing major problems for your small intestine. In a recent study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, investigators found that stomach acid-reducing drugs known as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) may actually increase damage to the small intestine caused by NSAIDs. Investigators explain that the extent of the hard-to-detect damage to the small intestine has only recently been discovered through the use of small video cameras that are swallowed like pills. Results have shown that PPIs appear to be shifting the damage from the stomach to the small intestine, where ulcers may be more dangerous and more difficult to treat.

Link Discovered Between RA Drugs and Skin Cancer Risk

A recent study has shown that biological agents used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) appear to be linked with an increased risk of skin cancer. Researchers set out to determine whether tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors—drugs such as infliximab, adalimumab, and etanercept, all of which act on the immune system—might heighten the risk of cancer. After evaluating 21 studies that included more than 40,000 patients, seven studies revealed negligible or no risk for the development of any form of cancer. However, four studies revealed that patients treated with TNF inhibitors had a 45 percent greater chance of developing skin cancer other than melanoma, and two studies showed that patients taking TNF inhibitors had a 79 percent increased risk of developing melanoma compared with those who did not take the drugs.   

Osteoporosis Med Does Double Duty as Cartilage Builder

Forteo (teriparatide), a parathyroid hormone already approved to build bone mass in patients with osteopoorosis, has also been found to build cartilage and could potentially be re-purposed to treat people with osteoarthritis (OA). Researchers at the University of Rochester (N.Y.) discovered through clinical observation that occasionally patients suffering from both osteoporosis and OA found that their arthritis symptoms improved after taking Forteo for osteoporosis. The observation led investigators to question whether the drug would have an impact on the molecular pathways that govern chondrocytes (the cells responsible for maintaining cartilage). Using mice with knee OA, they found that when Forteo was given for one month, the injured cartilage became as much as 32 percent thicker, cell production was enhanced, and cartilage degeneration was suppressed. In addition to the lab findings, in a government-database review of 4,000 people with knee OA, 14 were found to also take Forteo for osteoporosis. Of this small group of people, all reported less OA pain and a higher ability to function.