Nearly five million people go to their doctors for relief from chronic pain, but medication can wear off and patients often run the risk of addiction. Researchers in Boston are working on a new approach to chronic pain in the form of an injection, that could ease the discomfort for days, without the risk of addiction.
For Meri Kennedy, everyday tasks like house cleaning aren't just tedious - they're painful. Every ache is a reminder of a life-long battle with chronic pain, the result of a long list of health problems.
"Fractured ribs, polyps in my vocal chord, breast cancer, fractured hip, injury to my knee," Kennedy said.
Kennedy relies on pain meds to get through the day.
"I am afraid I can get addicted to the pain meds."
But soon, she may be able to stop the pills and get one injection that blocks pain for days. Researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston are testing the injection. Physician Dan Kohane, M.D. is one of them.
Dr. Kohane said researchers "have developed some liposomes which, when injected either into the tissue or a nerve area, can numb the area for about a week."
Liposomes are specially designed fat-based particles that hold pain meds.
"When injected, liposomes just sit there and let the drugs leave."
The liposomes slowly release a potent anesthetic over time. In animal studies, the technique blocked nerves without damaging surrounding cells or muscles.
"The main advantages of this type of formulation over taking a narcotic, for example, to the best of our knowledge these have no addictive potential but can treat the pain."
The anesthetic being used in the study is a toxin found naturally in certain bacteria and in Puffer fish.
Kennedy hopes she'll be a candidate for the treatment in the future.
"I would welcome it, definitely."