In a new study, researchers developed a bio-compatible surgical patch that releases non-opioid painkillers directly to the site of a wound for days and then dissolves away.
The research was conducted by a team at Duke University.
The polymer patch provides a controlled release of a drug that blocks the enzyme COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2,) which drives pain and inflammation.
The polymer itself, comprised of poly(ester urea) homopolymers and copolymers, is also special, according to the team.
Most polymers that are used in medicine swell and everything comes out at once.
But this polymer erodes slowly, and its painkiller dose and longevity can be controlled simply by varying the surface area and thicknesses.
The team says if patients can get four or five days of pain control out of the patch and not have to take those other pain drugs, not only do they avoid some of the side effects and risks of addiction, they are concentrating therapy where they need it.
Animal studies also showed that the painkiller stayed in tissues close to the patch site, rather than dissolving into circulating plasma.
The researchers say the patch should be able to provide three or four days of wound-pain management, which is the critical period for post-surgical pain.
The implantable film would be particularly useful in endoscopic procedures and instances where the physicians and patients would like to avoid opioid exposure such as Cesarean births and pediatric surgeries.
In studies with mice that mimic the neuropathic pain of diabetes, the pain patch was placed against a nerve and provided a four-day nerve block.
One author of the study is Matthew Becker, the Hugo L. Blomquist professor of chemistry at Duke.
The study is published in the Journal of Controlled Release.
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