Rapid rise in opioid abuse is among the challenges faced by pain therapy drug developers

Pain therapy drug developers address the rapid rise in prescription drug abuse alongside the need for safe and effective treatments for a growing number of chronic pain sufferers. The sector has a diverse pipeline, with reformulations of existing therapies and alternative modes of drug delivery in development alongside novel compounds. However, increased generic competition will temper market growth over the next decade.

According to a new Espicom report, “Evolution in the Pain Therapy Market: Nociceptive and Neuropathic Drug Development, despite a plethora of medications, the pain market remains an area of high unmet need as current therapies are often less than effective and/or have undesirable side effects. Among the challenges facing the pharmaceutical industry is the rapid rise in prescription drug abuse, particularly in the USA, where it has reached epidemic proportions and has been directly correlated to a dramatic increase in the number of prescriptions for opioids.

Extended-release opioids are often prescribed for moderate to severe chronic pain that requires continuous treatment around-the-clock. Chronic pain affects around 1.5 billion people worldwide and the number is growing as the population ages, with more people afflicted by painful conditions, such as osteoarthritis and cancer. 

In recent years, drug development in pain has been focused mainly on reformulations of existing therapies and alternative modes of drug delivery to improve the safety and efficacy of existing, well known drug groups, such as opioids and NSAIDs. In opioid therapy in particular, drug development is focused mainly on reducing the abuse potential of this class of drugs. In addition to these evolving therapies, several novel compounds are in development and the pain segment has a varied pipeline.

As the market continues to evolve over the next decade, the current market leaders will lose patent protection and become subject to generic competition and consequent price erosion. It is generally agreed that sales of novel treatments are unlikely to entirely replace the revenue lost following patent expiry of the current top five, combined sales of which amounted to US$12.7 billion in 2010. However, several new drugs are poised to take market share, with Grünenthal/Johnson & Johnson’s Palexia/Nucynta (tapentadol) widely tipped to be among the up and coming market leaders.

Karen Holmes, senior market analyst at Espicom and the report’s author comments: “This is a highly competitive and fragmented market but there are opportunities for growth in some areas, particularly in neuropathic pain, which does not respond well to the currently available analgesics.”

Share this article

More services


This article is featured in:
Pharmacology/ Therapeutics


Comment on this article

You must be registered and logged in to leave a comment about this article.