James Cook University and Townsville Hospital are conducting a revolutionary drug trial that promises to relieve the suffering of patients with painful, non-healing wounds – which are three times more likely to afflict residents in the tropics than the national average.
In January, Townsville Hospital became one of eight sites across Australia to begin trialing a new topical pain-killer developed by US clinical stage company, Vapogenix.
JCU clinical researcher, Lisan Yip, said the new drug did not contain opioids, which meant it could be applied regularly to patients when their wound is causing them pain and during wound-cleaning sessions, without risk of the patients developing a tolerance or addiction to the drug.
“When you have a wound that is non-healing, it can be very painful – and dressing it is also very painful,” she said. “Current, oral pain tablets frequently fail to provide adequate pain relief and the longer you take them the more you need to take as your body builds up resistance and you run the risk of addiction.
“This new drug is placed directly on the wound, it’s fast acting and easily applied. Therefore, it makes both the cleaning process and its aftermath less painful. And there are likely to be far fewer side-effects, compared to tablet pain-killers.”
Many drugs currently used to control severe pain have been on the market for more than 30 years, according to Vapogenix Chief Scientist, Dr Heather Giles. “For me, this new medication is very exciting, because there is very little out there at the moment that can help patients with non-healing wounds – and pain is their number one problem.”
Ms Yip said the new topical analgesic is currently being trialed on patients suffering from chronic wounds or ulcers and may one day be used to treat burns victims.
The drug has also excited the interest of the military, according to Dr Giles. “The Army is very interested in this product, because using codeine-based products or opioids out there on the battlefield is not a desirable thing,” she said.