New nasal delivery method may offer faster, better pain relief

Through the nose might be a better, non-invasive route to pain relief using a "pressurized olfactory device" (POD) to deliver opioid drugs, according to research outlined in the September issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia. John D. Hoekman and Rodney J.Y. Ho, of the University of Washington, Seattle, developed and tested the device on lab animals and declared it "a simple new approach to nasal drug administration" that could allow morphine and other pain meds to be targeted directly to the central nervous system.

The researchers said in a release that the POD was designed to work with pinpoint accuracy into the hard-to-reach olfactory region that can be accessed through a 1-2-millimeter slit in the back of the nasal cavity. The region is located between the nose and brain, which makes it an attractive target for meds that focus on the central nervous system, they said.

Hoekman and Ho tried the delivery method using morphine and fentanyl. While they acknowledge that the olfactory route of administering painkillers is not new, it is rarely used because there is no simple and convenient way to deliver it. Their POD idea, they said, could maximize the body's response to morphine and fentanyl while minimizing side effects and pain-relief delays.

Steven L. Shafer of Columbia University, and editor-in-chief of Anesthesia & Analgesia, seems excited about the possibilities. "This technology is particularly exciting with molecules such as small peptides and biologic agents, which are so rapidly destroyed in the blood that they are ineffective if given orally or intravenously," Shafer said in a release. "Intranasal delivery may create an opportunity for the introduction of entirely new classes of pain killers that could not be effectively administered by traditional methods."

- read the release
- and the abstract in Anesthesia & Analgesia