West Virginia University is the first site to launch a clinical trial utilizing a non-opioid to treat chronic pain.

As part of its commitment to battling the opioid addiction, the first patient has been enrolled in a phase III clinical trial that will test the effectiveness of an injectable micro-pellet to treat sciatica. 

The phase III clinical trial utilizes a clonidine micropellet, which is half the size of a grain of rice and is placed in a patient’s lower back to combat sciatica pain for up to one year.

“This small pellet form, this medication, is slowly released at the site of the nerve damage or the nerve problem causing the sciatic. The advantage of this is it’s not a steroid and it’s not an opioid. So you are treating the sciatica which is leg pain that affects 5 percent of the population,” Ali Rezai, M.D., executive chair of the Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute, said. 

With more than five million people in the U.S. affected by sciatica – one of the most common causes of back and leg pain – the Sollis micropellet can potentially provide patients with a pain-relief solution and an alternative to addictive opioid pain medications.

This trial involves 200 patients in 25 centers across the country. WVU investigators say if this trial proves successful, it will open new opportunities to treating chronic pain.