A new and interesting delivery method for pain relief has been discovered by the University of York. Researchers, including a chemistry undergraduate have developed a new drug release gel which may reduce or avoid some of the side-effects created by using medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Ibuprofen and naproxen belong to a category of drugs called NSAIDs – Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs, which are excellent for reducing inflammation in the body and subsequently assisting with certain forms of pain-management.
The problem with using NSAIDs are the subsequent side-effects from the medications, which include notable issues with the stomach – including ulceration and erosion of the stomach lining when taken in high amounts or over an extended period of time. I would also point out that there are medications that contain opiates combined with NSAIDs like ibuprofen, and so the danger here obviously if a person is addicted to this medication is not only the effects of the opiates on the mind and body, but also the toxicity that comes from taking the ibuprofen contained in the medicine in high amounts and/or over long periods of time.
The researchers focused on creating a gel based on small molecules which self-assemble into nanofibres which could interact with a variety of NSAIDs (ibuprofen/naproxen). The aim in creating the gel is to both protect the pan-killing drugs in their application in the body and to also help limit some of the side-effects that they can cause. The extract below from the research article provides an excellent technical explanation as to how the new gel works and how it functions in the body in relation to the anti-inflammatory drugs:
"Specific interactions between the gel nanofibres and the drugs meant that high loadings could be achieved, and more importantly, the release of the drug could be precisely controlled. The gels were able to release naproxen at pH 8 -- the value found in the intestine, but not at lower pH values found elsewhere in the body.
Professor Smith said: "Although researchers have used gels before to try and improve the formulation of naproxen, this is the first time that a self-assembling system has been used for the job, with the advantages of directed interactions between the nanoscale delivery scaffold and the drug. As such, this is the first time that such precise control has been achieved."
The next step for Professor Smith's team will involve stabilising the gel drug delivery systems in the very acidic, low pH, conditions found in the stomach so that they can transit safely to the intestine before delivering naproxen just where it is needed."
The positive ramifications from this new pain relief method could be broad and varied. The potential to increase the impact and/or efficacy of NSAID medicines whilst improving the profile of side-effects for these medications would be a two-fold benefit for many people required to use these anti-inflammatory/pain-killing drugs.