A polymer-based drug-eluting mesh that is implanted in the patient following surgery and dissolves harmlessly after its useful life could help combat the opioid epidemic. The mesh was invented by University of Akron (UA) researcher Matthew Becker, the W. Gerald Austen Endowed Chair in Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering. UA is working with 21MedTech, a startup founded by Becker, and pharma firm Merck & Co. Inc., to commercialize the device perhaps as soon as next year, according to an article on the UA website.
|Matthew Becker, W. Gerald Austen Endowed Chair in Polymer Science and Polymer Engineering.
Image courtesy University of Akron.
The research recently received a $2 million grant from Ohio’s Third Frontier Commission, a state initiative to accelerate economic growth through the support of startup and early technology companies. It’s the largest grant given to a higher education institution as part of the commission's effort to combat the opioid crisis.
“The implantable polymer mesh contains a local, non-opiate pain reliever that can be inserted at a surgery site,” notes the article on the UA website. “The mesh releases the pain reliever over time and finally dissolves into the body while remaining non-toxic. [Becker] thinks the drug-eluting mesh will allow patients to receive the benefit of speedy pain relief while reducing the number of opioid prescriptions and the amount of unused painkillers available on the streets.”
The mesh reportedly would control pain for three to four days, after which it resorbs into the body.
A personal experience drove home the need for opiate alternatives for Becker. After his wife underwent minor minimally invasive surgery, he was astonished by the number of pills she was prescribed and how little they cost, reports the Akron Beacon Journal/Ohio.com. “Six dollars for 60 pills,” Becker told journalist Katie Byard. “She took one, and now I have a problem. What do I do with 59 pills?” He ended up dropping them off in a lockbox operated by the local police, reports the Akron Beacon Journal.
Becker and 21MedTech have licensed the technology and partnered with Merck, reports Cleveland.com. They hope that FDA will clear the device for use by next year.