How Are Clinical Trials Addressing the Opioid Epidemic?

clinical trial opioid epidemic

From wearables to pain medications that present a minimal risk of addiction, here’s how medical researchers are working to combat the opioid epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 91 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses. What’s more, the problem only seems to be escalating — the rate of opioid-related deaths in the United States increased 2.8-fold from 2002 to 2015.

Fortunately, a number of researchers are exploring new ways to help patients manage their pain without the risk of dependency. Here are some of the cutting-edge studies being conducted on opioid use disorder, as well as the ways in which digital marketing can be used to help spread accurate information about prescription drug risks and addiction recovery.

Clinical Trials Take Strides to Address Substance Abuse

Medical researchers are tackling the opioid epidemic from several angles, from advancing the treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) to improving overdose reversal medications. Clinical trials are also studying the body’s response to pain in order to develop pain treatments that are non-addictive and have fewer side effects.

For instance, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester examined how wearable technologies can help identify drug relapses by measuring a patient’s temperature, heartbeat, motion, and skin electrical conductance. If a relapse does occur, these devices can alert a sponsor or physician and prompt them to help the patient get back on track.

Additionally, researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine are developing a pain-relieving compound that does not cause dopamine-driven addiction. This drug is unrelated to opioids and does not lead to respiratory depression, the leading cause of prescription opioid deaths.

Further, the Institute of Human Virology, the National Institutes of Health, and Amygdala Neurosciences are leading a $12 million project to develop a treatment that prevents cravings and relapses for patients with opioid use disorder. The investigational agent, ANS-6637, may inhibit the dopamine surge that is associated with cravings without affecting patients’ basal dopamine.

Finally, researchers from the University of Minnesota Medical School and the Minneapolis Medical Research Foundation at Hennepin Healthcare are working on a vaccine for heroin and prescription opioids. This vaccine would prompt the immune system to produce antibodies that prevent opioids from reaching the brain and causing the expected high.

The Role of Digital Marketing in Curbing the Opioid Epidemic

The opioid epidemic has received extensive media coverage in the past several years. Sponsors and CROs can use this opportunity to engage audiences in meaningful conversations about the steps that are being taken to combat this crisis — as well as recruit patients for important clinical trials like those outlined above.

For instance, researchers can take to social media to explain the side effects of opioids or instruct patients on when they should stop taking their prescribed medications. Sponsors and CROs can also use digital ads — whether through paid search or social media — to encourage opioid users to seek help. These ads may direct audiences to clinical trial landing pages, where users can learn about their treatment options.

Ultimately, the ongoing national conversation about the opioid epidemic represents a chance for sponsors and CROs to reach relevant audiences — both those experiencing SUD and their loved ones — and provide them with accurate and useful information. By making an effort to actively engage with patients, clinical trials can help advance treatment for a potentially fatal condition that affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

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