Reducing Prescription Opioid Addiction with Controlled Release Bandages
Christopher Tison, PhD, Senior Research Scientist
Biomedical Technologies Group
Opioid Dependence is a Critical Public Health Crisis
Since 2003, deaths from drug overdose have increased in almost every county in the United States. This growing public health crisis has been routinely reported on over the last several years, and the federal government has very recently published the first national standards for prescription painkillers. In 2014, the death toll from overdoses related to prescription painkillers or heroin reached almost 29,000 – a 14% increase over the previous year. When combined with other forms of drug-overdose related deaths, the total impact is approaching that of the HIV epidemic in the late 1980s, according to the Center for Disease Control’s chief of mortality statistics.
Luna is Developing Controlled Delivery Bandages
In order to address this critical public health concern, Luna Innovations, Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Translational Pain Research (Dr. Jianren Mao) and the University of Virginia’s Plastic Surgery Research Lab (Dr. Patrick Cottler) are developing a unique nanofiber-based dressing known as “TuneCoat™.” The dressing is designed to deliver combination pain therapy at the site of discomfort in order to substantially reduce the required opioid dose and eliminate the need for systemic (oral or intravenous) delivery. This localized delivery combined with lower drug doses will significantly reduce the chance of addiction and dependence. In addition, by administering lower, targeted, yet effective amounts of pain reliever in each treatment regimen, the developed TuneCoat™ dressings will be less susceptible to abuse and illegal trade than current prescription opioid form factors like pills.
The research, sponsored by the US Army Medical Research Acquisition Activity and funded by the Defense Health Program, is initially aimed at delivering known effective opioids in lower, controlled concentrations in a localized manner to provide pain relief to burn wounds. These active burn dressings can also be designed to protect the wound from infection, aid in healing, and to deliver both pain relievers and antimicrobials in the same bandage. Luna’s TuneCoat™ burn dressing is prepared using a unique electrospinning process, allowing drugs of different chemistry and function to have individually tuned release rates and concentrations. Luna has confirmed controlled drug release, and has recently demonstrated antimicrobial function of the dressings. Further, as demonstrated in the figure below, Luna’s dressings have the capability of delivering drugs with burst or zero-order (sustained) release. This allows different drug compounds to be delivered at different rates, and ensures rapid pain relief using the burst-delivery concept.
Though these dressings are being targeted to burn wound pain management in initial forms, Luna envisions broad acceptance for a variety of different indications such as peripheral neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, or other forms of chronic and debilitating pain. Luna’s dressings provide a desperately needed solution to a critical and growing public health crisis, and provide unique and practical solutions that can be directly integrated into standard practices of care.