Start-Up Creating Non-Addictive Painkiller More Powerful than Morphine

Start-Up Creating Non-Addictive Painkiller More Powerful than Morphine

By Staff

Blue Therapeutics is a Harvard start-up founded by Ajay Yekkirala, Michio Painter and David Roberson, which is creating a new kind of painkiller that may be proven to be more effective than existing opioids and may eliminate the risks for addiction.

That the trio recognizes the importance of pain management and the crisis of addiction may well be the reason this start-up has enormous potential.

“An important element of the addiction problem we’re facing is the prevalence of pain,” David Roberson said in an interview with Bostinno.

“Pain is the most common reason people seek health care, and the most prescribed medications are painkillers.  Pain is a big problem that must be addressed.  The opioids that are currently widely used are addictive, but they’re also the most effective compounds to treat pain.”

Their product development initiatives are built upon a molecule that Ajay Yekkirala created while he was a Ph.D. student at the University of Minnesota.

The molecule binds to a receptors that are not located in the pleasure center of the brain to produce pain relief.  The molecule also serves as an antagonist to the receptors that are located in the pleasure center of the brain.  In short, it may be proven to provide powerful pain relief with no risk for addiction.

The trio is actively seeking funding so it can take the novel technology into clinical trials.  The company’s “elevator pitch” is:

“Conventional opioids such as morphine are effective at treating pain, but come with serious side-effects, including addictive potential.  As a result, tens of thousands of people die each year in the U.S. from prescription opioid overdose, while countless others form dependence.  In response, our team is advancing a novel small molecule that shows greater painkilling potency than morphine while demonstrating no abuse potential. Our goal is to move this compound from the lab to the clinic.”

It’s encouraging to see that the future may well separate the issues of addiction and pain management, which are at the heart of the national debate the CDC inflamed with its controversial draft guidelines for opioid prescribing.  It, too may hold the promise of enabling pain physicians to effectively treat people with chronic pain without fear of losing their medical licenses, or worse, being convicted of crimes.

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Authored by: Staff

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Kristine (Krissy)

Deborah - please write to me at
I live in Florida


Oh my gosh, can I feel how mad and bitter you are right now!!! And I don’t blame you at all!! I am so bitter I can taste it. They don’t realize how much we go through just to be standing there with our legitimate prescription!! I think they are quoting policy as if it were law. It may be a policy for CVS or whomever, that some pharmacists follow, and others don’t, or just the policy of a certain pharmacist. The DEA and CDC has everyone so scared and confused. They make recommendations that aren’t necessarily laws yet, but they frighten people into thinking it. A pain doctor I saw last week thought that PCPs could no longer right pain prescriptions. I personally don’t know if that is true right now, or is possibly just something that the DEA or CDC is trying to push through. What a thought, though. My pain doctor has me on such low doses of medicine that I haven’t had any issues where I live. Can’t get the dosage that I really need. They are pushing for procedures that I can’t even begin to pay for. I have had a problem in past filling my son’s Ritalin when I could only afford 1/2. He had to go without full dosage for a month, because the doctor couldn’t write another RX until 30 days. So that may be valid? I don’t know. I recommend you find a calm moment and make a complaint about how this was handled, after you double-check current law, as it changes all the time. Also, it may just be policy for the pharmacy or how the pharmacist practices. But, if it is not law, and they quoted that it was, then I would definitely want answers. I have heard that CVS and Walgreens are bad about that. Also, Mom and Pops are usually a franchise of a bigger company these days. So that “Pop” may have been an employee. Good luck to you. Pain sucks. Getting or filling a prescription shouldn’t have to. Besides, I know people who abuse antibiotics, and we now have super bugs killing people. Why are they still handing those out like a Pez dispenser?

Justine Saine

Maybe alittle of both eh!? Right now im having issues, im goung to look through some articles,i think i saw one where we could file complaints. I get a medication, some call it a breakthrough but if you look on it doesnt list it that way. It is a short acting med but it works for me. My Dr. wrote me for a higher mg because all the long lasting (stay in system 12 hrs) havent worked for me. Well last month the local CVS filled he script-no problem. This month they say they dont have any,I ask ‘are you gonna get them in?’ She said ‘well we didnt order any this week,so deffinately not this week’ ,she didnt say whether or not they were goin to order next week. As if i could wait that long! Well,i called the pharmacy i was a regular at for years and getting gouged like crazy! Thier voice message when you call states that if they dont have a medication,they will special order it for you. And from experience with them I know that all they have to do is make a phone call and they can get them brough over as soon as th next day. Ive had to do this a cpl times when they didnt have enough to cover my script. They will give me what they have and have the rest there the next day! So anyway hen i called i was told they didnt have any. I ask ‘Can you get th for me’? They said ‘well even if we order it,they might not have it to bring’! ……WTF!? I wanted to say pick up the phone,call them and see!!! Ive been looking 2 days now,Im out,Im getting sick! You are in the business of helping ppl get medication they need. Why are you a pharmacist then!? Seriously! But I said nothing but ‘Thanks’. So I go on a search of driving around see because you cant just call a phamacy up and ask if they have these meds or meds like them in stock because theyll say No everytime,reguardless if whether they do or dont! Why? Because and these are thier words,’If we say yes,how do we know youre not planning in robbing us?’ Mmmk! Anyways,im in another county and checking with a place i was referred to by a friend of a friend who said ‘they deffinately have them’ so i pull up to this mom & pop phamacy with hopes in hand, go in,hand the girl my script. She says, ‘you fill here before?’ ,’no’,I said ‘but if you fill them,ill come back every month!’ ‘Ok’,she says,’Ill need your ID for this’, ‘Sure’,handed it over as she filled out a new customer form,I signed it. Im feeling pretty good inside like yaaa! Im looking at the prices of thier vitamins when I hear my name way to soon. The man who im assuming i the “pop” (the owner) says to me ‘I cant fill… Read more »


i have been taking kratom for two years it does help immensely
No sid effects and help with spinal stenosis and arthritis .
It stays away from the Mu receptors improves mobility and mood
I’ve done every pain medicine my dr prescribed and this works without
The side effects it really helps

Rick Bell

I am a chronic pain patient. I’ve tried everything from fentanyl to vioxx,
I found kratom about a year ago, I was on vacation in florida and could not get my prescription filled due to pharmacists not doing their jobs and declining to fill my prescription. Even though Walgreens corporate said it would not be a problem
So, I had a 16 hours drive ahead of me, no pain meds and the prospect of doing this while going through withdrawal symptoms pushed me to try kratom.
It was like a miracle, WD symptoms were bearable to non existent. Mood elevated, mentally alert.
Since then I have been able to come off of fentanyl, I still take oxy 30s for breakthrough pain, but not 10 a day. Maybe 3 on a bad day. Kratom has filled that void and given me my life back.
The DEA and FDA are only working for big pharma.
Kratom was made illegal because back in the day England got taxes from opium, so when locals stopped using opium, and used kratom, it was outlawed.
Just follow the money. ..


Kristine, if I hadn’t found kratom when I lost my pain meds over a year ago I would be dead from suicide from the pain. It’s strong enough to keep me from being suicidal but not as strong of relief as I need so although I have some pain relief I am still dependant on my wheelchair. On opiates I was able to go and do without using the chair but then it may be that by pushing my body I was doing more damage. There *is a lot of misinformation out there but if you dig or talk to someone knowledgeable you can get to the truth about it. What I like is that my dosage on it has not had to increase in 15 months. It’s not like opiates where you can take more for more pain relief. Once you find your dose that’s pretty much your dose. I know a lot of people who successfully take it with opiates but only with light doses of opiates since kratom is an opioid that works through your stomachs CYP2D6 enzyme and will block opiates at higher doses. The good thing about it is it *is a plant found in the coffee family and you can’t OD on it, you’ll just throw any excess up and feel like crap. I had been on 8 Norco 10’s a day when they rescheduled my medication and my doctor lost his ability to write it for me. Kratom kept me from withdrawing and when I don’t take it I have no withdrawal symptoms other than the pain comes back with a vengeance. I have heard others do have some light withdrawal issues (headaches etc) but compared to opiates it’s nothing too severe. Since I’m rambling I’ll go on to say that the problem with kratom is that drug addicts are trying to latch onto it as a means to get high and it is NOT a plant you can really attain a high from. The alkaloids help pain and depression and anxiety and in some cases chronic fatigue but as a high it sucks. I’ve read a lot of posts on the internet written by those hoping to find a cheap and legal high- that’s where I got that opinion from, For me it just helps the pain fade away some so I can deal without suicidal thoughts.

I suggest googling Scientific American’s article about kratom (I think titled Should Kratom be legal?), David Silva’s 2 part article The Kratom Experiment where he tries it and gives an honest opinion and also look into Ole Miss’s articles as they are studying its ability to wean addicts off strong drugs such as methadone and heroin.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On January 6, 2016, the FDA warned consumers “not to use any products labeled as containing kratom.” The FDA press release can be found here:

Donna Skelton

I agree. I don’t get any kind of high. That’s the difference between taking pain med for pain that is chronic, consistent. And someone who keeps taking pain meds after their pain stops (for instance, after pain from surgery has subsided-acute pain). Why don’t “experts” get it? Are they stupid, don’t care? I would really like to know.

Justine Saine

In reading through these,its quite confusing. Some said it binds to receptors but Not the pleasure receptors, if thats the case youre saying the pain will go away but there will be no euphoric ‘high’. Well news flash,those of us who take pain meds for the right reasons, and have been for long periods….we dont get that euphoric ‘high’! We dont feel pleasure anyway. We feel our pain go away, along with it our anxiety,misery, quick temper to bite someones heads off for asking dumb questions! But we dont get high,we get normal! Now,if youre saying the drug doesnt bind to pleasure receptors but it numbs them…first how if it doesnt bind!? Second,if it like suboxone and makes it where you cant feel your pain meds work, what the h— is the point!? We need the meds to work,to diminish the pain. But its all sounding alittle contradictive to me! You know orgasms are a natural pain eliminator so go back to your labs and figure out a medication that binds to that receptor! Since its not productive to sit in bed and masturbate all day,make me a pill no give me a pump device so I can just push a button…relief!

Kristine (Krissy)

I recently read a lot about Kratom. I read the government’s side, and a ton of comments from users. At first I thought it might be a good idea, but it seems that is is very dangerous, especially if it is combined with some of the drugs we take. I don’t know why I hadn’t heard about it before, but I went to some sites that sell it, and again, in reading reports on it you can’t trust if what you are getting is pure. I guess I wouldn’t try it at this point.

Donna Skelton

I read the information about kratom on the FDA website. Sounds like it is narcotic in nature. I find it fascinating that the FDA pulls this product, but leaves behind the potent stimulant products that can lead to stroke and heart attacks. This country is so backwards.

John R Young

There is a plant that takes away the pain. All sorts of pain. Read just a little about it from a source that is not against it and you will quickly see that this plant is a miracle. For hundreds of years people have been using it to overcome opiate addiction and withdrawal. It’s called kratom. It has a scientific name based on its origin, but everyone just calls it kratom. It is a tree related to the coffee bean. It’s amazing! Just please read about it and the testimonials by those it’s helped from lupus, cancer, fibromyalgia, etc. I don’t know all the painful disease and physical ailment names. It’s called kratom. It attaches to most of the opioid receptors except for some of the pleasure ones. It truly is a miracle plant. Check it out.

EDITOR’S NOTE: On January 6, 2016, the FDA warned consumers “not to use any products labeled as containing kratom.” The FDA press release can be found here:


I love the idea of a pain killing medication that is not potentially addicting but some of the info in their pitch does not sit right with me. They say “tens of thousands are dying from prescription opioid addiction…” the actual number is much lower. All annual deaths that are even loosely relates to opiates (meaning there were other primary substances also present) only totals 16 thousand. People dying (suicide) from inadequate pain control numbers ARE in the tens of thousands…but they are never even mentioned. The other serious issue I have is seen often - the lumping patients who are opiate dependent into the addiction group. Opiate dependence is no different than insulin dependence. There is nothing wrong with being dependent on one’s medixation. There are 2 different diagnoses for opiate dependency: one the problem of heroin addicts and two, the non problem of pain patients who need their medication for any quality of life. Perhaps a specification should be made when lumping addiction and dependence together.

I have said many times that I just wish a class of medication could be developed that would help patients like opiates but without this reported “high” so that patients with intractable pain can finally receive much needed relief without the discrimination and associated stigma of being a “drug seeker.” Thank you

Pharmacist Steve

I remember a “new” pain med that came out in the late 60’s .. not suppose to be addicting… but the problem was that addicts could still use it to get high and it did virtually NOTHING in controlling pain…
Secondly.. A new drug like this - presuming their press is accurate - will command a $20+/day in costs… and the insurance industry will basically try to shut it down with prior authorizations to get it paid for.
Just look at Hysingla ER… a tamper resistant long acting Hydrocodone and mid-range dose is $500 + month’s supply.
If they can prove that it is no addicting potential.. the $$$/month will go up dramatically


No way this is going to work whatever this is they’re trying to push off to take the place of our pain medicine is not going to work I wish to God they had the pain that I and many others suffer through daily if so they would change their mind this is ridiculous totally ridiculous and it probably cost a fortune anyway the insurance companies probably won’t even cover it I am sorry but I think its b******* it’s not going to work.

Donna Skelton

I find it interesting that they comment that people taking prescribed pain medicines are responsible for all the deaths.
Add to this that it blocks the pleasure center of the brain, and I can give my answer already: no way would I sign up for this.


Antagonistic to the pleasure receptors? So no pain, but you can’t get rewards even for exercise, intimate relations or a job well done? Sounds more like torture. Not buying it.


All of the concerns/comments mentioned so far are very valid points, most of which I share, I will add one more — and it’s a BIGGIE!!
MY GREATEST FEAR is the fact that trial participants may very well have TO GO **COMPLETELY** **OFF** **ALL** CURRENT OPIATE PAIN MEDS (Both the 24/7 Opiates AND — ALL Breakthrough Opiates!) IN ORDER TO DETERMINE whether this new drug Actually Works for our particular types of pain!
A Removal/Cleansing of the Opiates that are Currently Well Established To the Receptors Throughout Our Bodies will probably require 3-4 weeks. This done in order to prepare our bodies for something new — ALL the While WITH NOTHING(!!!) FOR PAIN RELIEF!!!
THEN, AFTER STARTING THIS NEW MED, it may well take ANOTHER *Several Weeks* (maybe more?) TO MAYBE/HOPEFULLY *Fully Benefit* from the New Med!!
ALSO, As Most of Us KNOW:
ALL PAIN IS NOT Created — OR Treated — Equally! There are so many types and causes of Chronic Pain that it would indeed be a MIRACLE DRUG if it works for US ALL!!

*Now For A Cynical Note and MY Unavoidable Choice — IF the above is All True:
BUT, for those of you who CAN make it through Week #1 of complete withdrawals from your opiates, and THEN MAKE IT THROUGH ANOTHER 2-3 WEEKS OF **ZERO PAIN RELIEVERS** (in order to Complete the Necessary Cleansing of Opiates from your bodies) and THEN BE READY to Start the NEW MED …

Finally, Again Being Cynical: This could well be a (hidden agenda) program created to ascertain If Certain Patients Are Being Prescribed OPIODS Unnecessarily!!


Dawn N.

How long would these trials last? Chronic illnesses and pain for so many would most likely to benefit but how would it affect our thinking, ability to function (especially from whatever side affects it may have), our mood (if suffering from depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses), and our thought process. I’d be willing to participate in the trials. I’ve been in pain for 14 years now with 6 surgeries under my belt, Fibro, DDD, and peroneal neuropathy.


Again I am skeptical. Another drug, more side effects, more chemicals in our bodies. Would be nice to have the option of a natural plant but then again who could afford it anyway. I am over 60, have tried all morphines, all patches, injections and still end up back with Vicodin because it is the only thing that lets me function without feeling all drugged out. Do I want to take it. Hell no. I try every day to make it last longer and longer with no avail. But this is my life so I can make it to the bathroom or fix myself something to eat or just be able to stand for 5 minutes. Pain 24/7. I just don’t see new pain pills helping and being the test subject for it when for years it has been known that Marijuana has helped so many and is less dangerous and more effective than some of the pills we are put on. Everyone should have this choice.

Wayne C.

This would be so great, just to think of the lives it would change and save!! I’m sure about this, not having to worry about dependency. The quality of life would be so much better, really a great big plus for chronic pain patients. (Oh what a relief it is) Ha, ha ha!!!

What’s of serious concern, is that drugs whose only pleasant effect is the relief of symptoms, under the expansive definitions that dangerous extremists like Andrew Kolodny and Jane Ballantyne of PROP use, for defining “addiction risk”, would become re-classified as “addictive”, as soon as patients actually benefit from the new drugs’ use. For society to benefit from new, life-enhancing technologies like this one, we first must put the dangerous extremists in their place, and stop believing their wild allegations.


is it on the market now? I need something for pain and pain meds are the only thing that work for me.

sherri davis

I’m from West virginia. A 51 year old mother of 2 and grandmother to 4. I have had scoliosis since I was 12 yes old. Harrington rod put in and had it taken out 10 yr later because the rod broke into. There was nothing put back in for support. My nerves, ligaments and muscles are weak. I stay in pain 24/7. I was on lortab and morphine sulfate for 20 yrs. I quit cold turkey because I know it was ruining my system. I would gladly be part of clinical trial. There are pain clinics here in Huntington. If not a trial put me in touch with a specialist that can help me. Thank you


When you think about it, a God-given PLANT has the ability to block pain and boost mood. How in the name of God can this be evil? How twisted are we anyway?

I find it disturbing that they leave out exactly what receptors it does bind to. Also if it numbs the pleasure centers of the brain, what does that do to mood, drive, creativity, sexual response, energy level…

I’m over 60 years old, and I’ve watched artificial “pain killers” come and go. They usually go because they aren’t very effective and have horrible side effects. We know the dangers of the NSAIDs you can buy over the counter like candy. At what point do we realize that we can’t do it better than nature’s design?

I’ve been on morphine for 5 yrs and still no relief. Anything to help get rid of the pain and to get off morphine would be a miracle.

Kate D

cynically skeptical… would like to know more about this medication and what it does how does it treat pain where specifically it’s molecules binds to I mean better pain control would be nice but this sounds a little fishy to me.

Karen Fox

I would love more information. I would be interested in trials. I have been on opoids for over 20 yr & I desperately want my life back without them & the pain.


“The molecule also serves as an antagonist to the receptors that are located in the pleasure center of the brain.”

Would this negatively impact mood, then? Hopefully this will not be a pill that will relieve pain while making someone depressed!

Kristine (Krissy)



What receptors does the drug molecules bind to? They say what it doesn’t bind to & it’ll be interesting to see what it does bind to & see how that affects treatments