According to the latest Phase III data, Grunenthal’s novel analgesic tapentadol provides comparable pain relief to the standard opioid oxycodone, but with less likelihood of gastrointestinal side effects such as nausea, vomiting and constipation. The results were presented at the 12th World Congress on Pain in Glasgow.

The three double-blind, randomised, controlled studies compared the immediate-release (IR) formulation of tapentadol with oxycodone IR in severe joint disease of the hip or knee, after surgical treatment of bunions, and low back pain or osteoarthritis pain of the hip or knee. In all studies, tapentadol IR provided pain relief comparable to a standard oxycodone IR dose, but resulted in a lower risk of nausea, vomiting and constipation.

GI side-effects are a recognised, common problem with classical opioids such as oxycodone, and can lead some patients to stop treatment. In studies reported in Glasgow, the discontinuation rate was lower among patients receiving tapentadol IR compared to those assigned to oxycodone IR.

Currently under investigation for the relief of severe pain, tapentadol is being developed in an IR formulation for acute pain and a prolonged-release formulation for chronic pain. Tapentadol was discovered and developed to Phase II by Grunenthal, and the company is now working in partnership with Johnson & Johnson to take the agent further.

Grunenthal holds the marketing rights for tapentadol in Europe and rest of the world, and has licensed rights for the USA, Canada and Japan to J&J. It is preparing the licence submission of tapentadol IR in Europe, Mexico, and South America, while a New Drug Application has been submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration.