FDA Designates CRPS Drug as ‘Breakthrough Therapy’

By Pat Anson, Editor

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has designated an experimental drug as a potential breakthrough therapy for Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), a chronic and disabling neurological disease for which there is no cure or treatment.

Neridronic acid was discovered by Abiogen Pharma, an Italian drug maker, and is jointly being developed with Grünenthal, a German pharmaceutical company.

The Breakthrough Therapy designation by the FDA came after the companies reported the results of a Phase II clinical trial showing a significant reduction in pain and symptoms of CRPS with neridronic acid treatment. The drug has already received fast track and orphan drug designations from the FDA.

The agency considers a new drug as a breakthrough therapy if it is intended to treat a serious condition and if preliminary clinical evidence demonstrates substantial improvement over current treatments. There are no current FDA approved treatments for CRPS, which is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD).

"It is very encouraging to see that the FDA recognizes the urgent need for new treatments for patients with CRPS and has granted neridronic acid the status of a Breakthrough Therapy. This supports our efforts to develop an efficacious treatment option to these patients,” said Klaus-Dieter Langner, MD, Chief Scientific Officer of Grünenthal. “We are committed to working closely with the FDA to bring neridronic acid to patients with CRPS as fast as possible.”

In the Phase II study, neridronic acid or a placebo was administered intravenously to 464 patients with CRPS type 1, when the disease is in its early stages. The study ended in November.  

A previous study of 82 CRPS patients in Italy found that those who were treated with infusions of neridronic acid experienced significant and persistent reductions in pain.

Neridronic acid is currently being evaluated in a Phase III clinical trial. If successful, the drug could be the first FDA-approved treatment for CRPS, which is characterized by severe, burning pain that usually begins in the arms or legs after an injury or surgery. The pain often spreads throughout the body.

"Grünenthal is highly dedicated to improving the lives of patients with pain as well as rare diseases with limited treatment options. This is an area of high unmet medical need,” Gabriel Baertschi, CEO of the Grünenthal.

The company recently purchased Thar Pharmaceuticals, which is developing an oral form of zoledronic acid for the treatment of CRPS. That drug is also undergoing a Phase III study.

Neridronic acid is an investigational aminobisphosphonate. According to the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association (RSDSA), bisphosphonates have been used for years overseas to treat CRPS.

“We need options and if this can help patients and encourage other medications and treatment options to come onto the market for CRPS’ers, it’s a great thing,” said Barby Ingle, who suffers from CRPS/RSD and is President of the International Pain Foundation.

“We saw with fibromyalgia and Lyrica that once it (fibromyalgia) had a medication designated it gained more awareness and acceptance in society, leading to better access to care. The same could happen with a CRPS designation for a medication, leading to greater treatments and a cure in the future.”

What Does Your Pain Feel Like?

By Pat Anson, Editor

Does your chronic pain feel like you’ve been hit with a hammer, a bad sunburn that won’t go away, or ants crawling under your skin?

Those are some of the choices patients have in a new campaign launched in Ireland to change the way patients describepain to their physicians.   

Accurately assessing pain is difficult because pain is so subjective. For many years doctors have relied on various versions of the Wong Baker Pain Scale – a series of sad and smiling faces a patient chooses from to help their doctor understand how much pain they are in. The scale is so simple it was originally developed for children, but is now used around the world for adults.

The “Mypainfeelslike…” campaign aims to improve on that method by using more descriptive images and phrases to help doctors understand and diagnose their patient’s pain. The campaign focuses on neuropathic pain, but can be used for many other types of chronic pain. The initiative is sponsored by Grunenthal Group, a German pharmaceutical company.

Instead of an unhappy face, patients can choose from a dozen images, ranging from a burning flame to a rope tied in knots to a set of ice cubes. They also fill out a questionnaire and select different phrases to describe their pain, such as “a hot iron on my skin” or “a volcano erupting.”

Patients are also asked to fill out a questionnaire to select different phrases to describe their pain, such as “a hot iron on my skin” or “a volcano erupting.” And there's a list of multiple choice answers to describe how pain affects their ability to work, exercise and socialize.

It may take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire, but the idea is to get patients to “invest more time and accurateness in thinking about their symptoms, describing them more precisely, and preparing for doctors’ appointments.”

“Doing so forces us to reconsider our chronic pain, and the different ways that we feel it. This improves our self-awareness, allows us to better communicate our situation, and helps us get the most value out of the very short time that we usually have during doctors’ appointments,” the website says.

To take the questionnaire, click here.

According to a survey by Grunenthal, over half of Irish pain sufferers feel frustrated when trying to communicate their pain to a doctor. Over a quarter say they delay discussing their pain because they’re not sure how to do it.

“Living with chronic or nerve pain affects people’s well-being, their ability to be independent, their productivity and relationships, which can lead to feelings of depression," John Lindsay, chair of Chronic Pain Ireland told the Irish Independent.  “The ‘Mypainfeelslike’ campaign will help raise awareness of the impact of chronic pain and give people living with this disease the tools to re-evaluate their pain management plans.”