Millions of people around the world suffer from chronic lower back and neck pain. The solutions available range from conservative treatments like exercise and over-the-counter medications to minimally invasive spine surgery, and recent research is pointing to another solution that may be on the horizon. According to a study that was released in June of 2020, there is a new, injectable drug called Tanezumab that may be able to significantly reduce pain and improve mobility without the addictive effects that opioid medications have.
Tanezumab is a monoclonal antibody. It works by stopping nerve growth factor (NGF), a protein that increases our sensitivity to pain. The new medication, which just went through a Phase III study with over 1,800 patients, binds to NGF and prevents it from allowing pain signals to reach the brain. Participants receiving an injection of the medication every two months reported more pain relief than what was derived from either tramadol or a placebo, which lead author
John Markman, MD, director of the Translational Pain Research Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center calls “a major breakthrough in the global search to develop non-opioid treatments for chronic pain.”
Despite the promise of pain reduction, experts are warning of troubling side effects. Roughly 10% of participants who received the medication at a dose of 10 mg experienced joint pain or other side effects, with several requiring total joint replacement surgery. Cutting the dosage in half reduced the incidence of side effects, but also reduced the pain relief provided.
Though these side effects are cause for concern, Dr. Markman points out that all other treatments currently available also carry risks, indicating that if the medication receives FDA approval, physicians will need to weigh the risks for individual patients and base their decision on each one’s diagnosis. “In the future, clinicians may have to weigh the different risks of lumbar fusion surgery, chronic opioid use, or NSAIDs against the unique risks of a rare but rapidly progressive form of joint problem associated with blocking nerve growth factor,” said Markman. “I expect that that the tradeoffs between benefit and risk will be different for osteoarthritis than for chronic low back pain.”
If you are currently experiencing neck or back pain, there are several steps you can take to provide yourself with relief. Many patients are able to ease their pain by taking over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as Motrin or Aleve, and there are several ointments and gels that can help too.
If those remedies don’t help, we suggest that you make an appointment with our New Jersey spine pain practice. Our physicians will listen carefully, asking questions about how your pain started and how it progressed and conducting a thorough physical examination, all with the goal of diagnosing the source of your pain and coming up with the best treatment plan for your condition.