Orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Joshua Li developing patches to treat back pain without addiction: 5 things to know

Written by Shayna Korol | March 27, 2018 | Print  |

Three University of Virginia researchers are developing drug delivery patches to treat chronic back and postsurgical pain without the risk of addiction, UVA Today reports.

Here are five things to know.

1. Orthopedic spine surgeon Joshua Li, MD, PhD, mechanical engineer Baoxing Xu, PhD, and orthopedic surgery researcher Jin Li, PhD, are designing the patches to be worn on the skin like a bandage. The patches are intended to deliver non-addictive pain medicine directly to the site of the pain, rather than throughout the body, as is the case for pain pills or injections.

2. The researchers are adapting the concept of commercially available lidocaine pain relief patches. Lidocaine is a non-addictive painkiller that works topically by blocking subdermal pain sensors. Current lidocaine patches release medication to a pain site through skin absorption, but do not control when or how much medication is released, which may not be effectively absorbed by the skin.

3. The UVA researchers are incorporating dissolvable and minimally invasive microneedles below the surface of the patch to release controllable flows of medicine without pain. This will be combined with temperature sensors and micro-heaters to create warmth, which is also intended to reduce pain. They expect pain relief to occur within about 15 minutes after application of the patch.

4. The team is considering adding a control mechanism to the patch in order to allow patients to manipulate the release of medication based on their pain level, without having to worry about overdosing or developing an addiction.

5. Drs. Joshua Li, Jin Li, and Baoxing Xu are planning fundamental efficacy studies. They believe the patches could be ready for use in clinical trials within about five years.

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