Selective small molecule angiotensin II type 2 receptor antagonists for neuropathic pain: preclinical and clinical studies

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Neuropathic pain affects up to 10% of the general population, but drug treatments recommended for the treatment of neuropathic pain are associated with modest efficacy and/or produce dose-limiting side effects. Hence, neuropathic pain is an unmet medical need. In the past 2 decades, research on the pathobiology of neuropathic pain has revealed many novel pain targets for use in analgesic drug discovery programs. However, these efforts have been largely unsuccessful as molecules that showed promising pain relief in rodent models of neuropathic pain generally failed to produce analgesia in early phase clinical trials in patients with neuropathic pain. One notable exception is the angiotensin II type 2 (AT2) receptor that has clinical validity on the basis of a successful double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial of EMA401, a highly selective, orally active, peripherally restricted AT2 receptor antagonist in patients with postherpetic neuralgia. In this study, we review research to date on target validation, efficacy, and mode of action of small molecule AT2 receptor antagonists in rodent models of peripheral neuropathic pain and in cultured human sensory neurons, the preclinical pharmacokinetics of these compounds, and the outcome of the above clinical trial.

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