A novel treatment for opioid use disorders

2018

Challenge

Opioid use disorders are currently a serious worldwide health problem, yet prescription opioids remain the most effective medications used to treat pain.

Advance

IRP researchers, led by Amy Newman, Ph.D., discovered that a compound called VK4-116, which selectively binds to and activates the D3 dopamine receptor, significantly inhibited acquisition of oxycodone self-administration behaviors and decreased oxycodone-seeking in several rodent models, while having no adverse effects on oxycodone’s ability to alleviate pain. In addition, VK4-116 was effective in a model of opioid-induced relapse and diminished the aversive aspects of opioid withdrawal caused by the drug naloxone, which is used to counteract the effects of opioids.

Impact

These results indicate that VK4-116 may be an effective non-opioid medication for the treatment of opioid use disorders. Moreover, VK4-116 could potentially mitigate the development of opioid dependence while preserving the therapeutic usefulness of opioid-based pain medications.

Publications

You ZB, Bi GH, Kumar V, Cao J, Gadiano A, Rais R, Slusher BS, Gardner EL, Xi ZX., Newman AH. (2019). Dopamine D­3R antagonist VK4-116 attenuates oxycodone self-administration and reinstatement without compromising its antinociceptive effects. Neuropsychopharmacology. Jul;44(8):1415-1424. doi: 10.1038/s41386-018-0284-5.