Cara Therapeutics (NASDAQ:CARA) is working on a new pain-killing drug that works differently than traditional opioids, and that could make it a better option for patients suffering from chronic pain. Can Cara Therapeutics' CR845 become an important tool in reducing the opioid epidemic?

In this clip from The Motley Fool's Industry Focus: Healthcare podcast, Kristine Harjes and Todd Campbell discuss how this drug's novel mechanism of action differentiates it from traditional opioids such as Oxycontin.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on April 12, 2017.

Kristine Harjes: The next company we want to discuss is called Cara Therapeutics. This one, I don't think we've mentioned it on Industry Focus. You can correct me if I'm wrong there. But I know I mentioned it on Motley Fool Answers, if any of our listeners also listen to one of our other Motley Fool shows, on the April 4 episode, which was all about biotech investing. I mentioned it as a company that I'm keeping my eye on that I'm excited about. This company has run up a ton this year, much like Pacira Pharmaceuticals has. It seems to be really on the right track. Essentially, what it's doing is, it has this opioid compound that targets something called the kappa-opioid receptor. This is different than the way that traditional opioids like morphine work, because those target the mu-opioid receptor. Essentially, the difference here is the drug that Cara Therapeutics is making doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier. So it doesn't come with the side effect of euphoria that gives rise to abuse and addiction.

Todd Campbell: Right. All these painkillers have to go through trials to see how likely they are to be subject to abuse. When they did this trial on this drug, CR845, they basically ended up with placebo-like reports of drug liking and feeling high and wanting to take this drug again. So you have a drug that theoretically can deliver pain relief more closely to the source of the pain -- because, again, it's targeting these κ-opioid receptors located in the periphery of the body, and it's not passing the blood-brain barrier -- so you have placebo-like euphoria. That's a win-win. In March, last month, they reported some data from a mid-stage trial evaluating its use in dialysis patients who suffer from a chronic itch, which is very frustrating and painful, and affects about 70% of the 456,000 people who are on dialysis. And sure enough, it reduced pain significantly versus placebo. They're going to sit down and talk to the FDA, figure out what their process should be for a phase 3 trial, and hopefully we'll get some more insight into how they plan to do that phase 3 trial within the coming months.

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