Current progress and challenges of nanoparticle-based therapeutics in pain management

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Pain is a widespread and growing health problem worldwide that exerts a considerable social and economic impact on both patients and healthcare systems and, therefore, on society in general. Although current treatment modalities include a wide variety of pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches, due to the complexity of pain and individual differences in clinical response these options are not always effective in mitigating and relieving pain. In addition, some pain drugs such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), local anesthetics and opioids show several unfavorable side effects. Therefore, current research advances in this medical field are based on the development of potential treatments to address many of the unmet needs and to overcome the existing limitations in pain management. Nanoparticle drug delivery systems present an exciting opportunity as alternative platforms to improve efficacy and safety of medications currently in use. Herein, we review a broad range of nanoparticle formulations (organic nanostructures and inorganic nanoparticles), which have been developed to encapsulate an array of painkillers, paying special attention to the key advantages that these systems offer, (compared to the use of the free drug), as well as to the more relevant results of preclinical studies in animal models. Additionally, we will briefly discuss the impact of some of these nanoformulations in clinical trials.Graphical abstract

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