Another plant analgesic

Never certain if it has relevance to central pain, we nevertheless tend to write on analgesic plants being reported in peer reviewed journals. Pharmacologically active plants, and plants in general, tend to grow in much greater number in Equatorial countries, so some of the journals may not be familiar. That is why we include such information here, with many thanks to PubMed for the lead it gives us.

Okoli et al have reported in Indian J Exp Biol. 2006 May;44(5):422-4 that leaf extracts of Culcasia scandens P. Beauv have significant analgesic properties.

When considering any pain therapy, one must consider the pain model. This study used two. One was injection of acetic acid into the abdomen of rats and then observing for writhing. The second model was the injection of formalin into the paw of the rat, which the rat will then lick because of pain. There are two phases of the formalin test and both were inhibited by the leaf extracts. Neither of these tests are models of neuropathic pain.

We realize this information is unlikely to benefit anyone with central pain, but we record if because drug company scientists read this site and because it gives you an incentive to write to your congressional representatives and ask that money be allocated to fund basic pain research. The first step is to let congress know that opioids do NOT reach all kinds of pain, including the most severe pain state. Then, we need to encourage ourselves and them that moneys afforded to the pain research scientists at NIDCR/NIH have a probability of uncovering a great deal that is helpful. The reports of analgesic plants not only need to be studied to see where these chemicals act (which helps us understand the cascade of pain chemicals) but also may lead to actual medication. The point is that we are not stuck in the muck, we are stuck in the lack of money.

The dynamics of NIH and scientists at universities is that NIH tends to control the money but outside scientists feel they may have a better awareness of where the money needs to be spent. Many feel that NIH decides which questions about pain get answered (funded). Of course, if there was a little more money, more questions would get answered and we would be at the solution faster. The people at NIH are very bright, fortunately, but pain science can be studied by many disciplines, geneticists, biochemists, neuroanatomists, molecular biologists, pharmacologists etc.

We really need a priority, or commitment to pain cure, to get the necessary funds. There are approximately five PhD’s at NIDCR who study basic pain. Five is an unconscionably small number to hire for this purpose. There are more than five janitors who sweep out the smallest government building in Washington. There simply has to be more money allocated to pain research. The odd thing is that when the investigations succeed, if the government would retain some of the royalties, which it has the right to do under law, it could make a significant contribution to public funding, for example to Medicare or Social Security Disability, or even just reducing the national debt.

The drug companies are expected to take up the slack, but these firms typically wait until the basic scientists elucidate mechanisms and then they set about to exploit the information for profit. Drug company stock is a large part of the salaries of the CEO’s and higher admnistrators. It is a hard sell to convince someone who is trying to convince managers of pension funds to buy their company stock just to muck around in the early basics of the chemical cascade which produces the sensation of pain. CEO’s are looking for what will increase the price of stock THIS quarter. Then, they can sell their own shares on the open market and make money. Long term pain research still seems a little far off for the promise of profits, to yield a balance sheet that will show profit and icnrease stock price. Consequently, the government must play a role in the basic investigation. To their credit, many genetics firms have the attitude that they are in it for the long haul. Companies like Genentech and Amgen do basic research that may not yield results for a long time. Fortunately there are some investors who realize this but also hope for some blockbuster product somewhere down the line, and this is what drives many of the hardcore researchers. Not uncommonly, once they have something, then the big boys, like Pfizer Merck Lilly may buy out the product and attempt to market it successfully. Some firms do research better and some do marketing better. The big companies themselves often provide moderate amounts of research money to smaller scientific groups if their own scientists think there is promise. What will create promise is for NIH and university professors to be funded in their studies. This sort of things happens best when there is a national priority, which we badly need for pain.

Considering how little money the NIH scientists have had to work with, they have achieved astounding results, but so much more could be done with say, fifty to a hundred million per year invested in a pain priority project at NIH. Many hospitals generate that kind of revenue every month, so it is not too much to ask.

If you can cure pain, you not only stand to provide jobs in producing the cures, it also returns people disabled by pain to more normal lives, requiring fewer public services and contributing something of their own. Granted that many with CP have SCI, but even SCI people can contribute if they are not in constant terrible pain. The whole world is not about being productive anyway. Maybe all a paralyzed person can contribute is kindness to others, but even that is important in a society and removing chronic pain, which afflicts millions of Americans, is worth the effort. Of course, the same goes for people and countries all over the world.