People often think that prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs are safer than illicit drugs, but that is only true when they are taken exactly as prescribed and for the purpose intended. Prescription and OTC drugs are the most commonly abused substances after marijuana and alcohol, and misusing pain medication can be as dangerous as heroin and cocaine use.
The CDC reports that nearly 2 million Americans over the age of 12 abuse or are dependent on prescription opioids. Opioids can be used to treat moderate-to-severe pain and are often prescribed following a surgery, injury, or for health conditions such as cancer. However, in recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in the acceptance and use of opioids for the treatment of chronic pain, such as back pain and osteoarthritis. Since 1999, reported deaths from prescription painkillers have quadrupled, killing more than 16,000 people alone in the U.S. in 2013. Each day, almost 7,000 people are treated in emergency departments for using these drugs other than directed, and studies have shown that prescription opioids are a gateway drug to heroin.
The pharma startup Blue Therapeutics has gone to war on the enormous and still growing public health burden of prescription pain opioids. They are advancing a novel small molecule that shows greater painkilling potency than opioids and very low abuse potential. In fact, the compound could be 50x more potent than morphine, the most commonly prescribed opioid, and completely non-addictive.
Blue Therapeutics goal is to move the compound from the lab to the clinic, and are currently looking for partners who share their vision. Earlier this year the startup was a finalist in OneStart, the world’s largest life sciences and healthcare startup accelerator program. Below is a video of Ajay Yekkirala and Michio Painter, the co-founders of Blue Therapeutics, showing their pitch at OneStart.