Many patients who have chronic pain are interested in the latest research and want to be a participant in order to get the newest form of treatment. Unfortunately there are not a lot of recent trials that have advanced to the human level for pain medication. Research is also limited in novel approaches to pain. The total funding for pain research related topics is about two percent compared to the total amount of research on all medical areas, even though 30 percent of the population is dealing with pain related issues.
The truth about research is that it is very tedious. For new drugs, it usually starts with trying to find a compound that may have some modifying affect on a part of the pain pathways that we currently understand. Current studies are trying to find new pathways that impact the perception of pain in the nervous system. In reality, much of the research is still at the basic level. We can’t treat pain until we fully understand what is going on in the body when we perceive pain. From the basic science, at some point we hope to be able to find new ways and compounds to manage pain.
Chronic Pain Research Trials
When a new treatment is found, research begins on the computer with complex models to try to predict what is going to happen in living systems. If the basic research is positive, then the study of living systems can begin. Initial studies may be just in cell cultures to see if a compound is toxic. The next level may then be to try a compound out on a lab animal such as a mouse and observe if it’s safe and if it changes the animal’s response to a disease or problem. The initial process of exploration can take years, and most compounds wash out and are found to be ineffective or toxic.
If a compound finally clears all the initial hurdles, and may appear to be beneficial for humans, then clinical trials may begin. Human trials have multiple phases. Initially, they are looking at a small group of very clear cases of a problem and whether a drug is safe and is helpful over a control group. The statistics at this stage are that 1 in 30 people have a serious side effect and 1 in 10,000 dies. If the drug is found safe, trials are enlarged, and the safe and effective dose is sought out. The third phase involves an even larger group to further determine safety and make sure it actually does what it is supposed to do. In all these human trials, the subjects are usually highly selected. Subjects must only have the very specific condition and not have other medical problems.
Many patients who have chronic pain have multiple medical issues. Often, chronic pain involves multiple stimuli and causes. Pain is not a simple problem and those who have ongoing pain need to alter their manage strategies, as there is no magical solution. Expecting to join a research study as a chronic pain patient is a very limited option. Very few studies are being performed, and most have very strict criteria to become a subject.
Chronic pain is a very tough medical problem to manage. At this time there are no magic options to control pain. Often pain takes multiple strategies to manage. Constantly looking for that one pill, shot or intervention is often futile. The best solution is usually working with an experienced pain physician and developing an individualized plan that addresses your needs. It usually will not rid you of pain, but it can make life more enjoyable.