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Pain treatments are limited and consist predominantly of opioids and anti-inflammatory drugs. Opioids are often used as cheap, strong painkillers, but in recent years it has become clear that many patients are now dependent on these drugs, resulting in over 60,000 opioid-related deaths in the US in 2020 alone, and more than 500,000 since 1999. These statistics, together with the large number of patients who do not find any current pain medication efficacious, demonstrates why there is a need for development of more effective and safer pain medications.

More people suffer from chronic pain than cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. It is estimated that there are 1.5bn chronic pain sufferers worldwide. In the US alone, the number of individuals suffering from chronic pain is close to 100 million, with two-thirds of patients feeling that available medications do not meet their needs. Patients associations are calling for novel therapeutic approaches, while regulatory agencies are supporting efforts to address severe, but rare, pain disorders, catalogued as orphan diseases.

Pre-clinical data, in vivo animal model studies and a small number of clinical trials in acute, neuropathic, chronic and cancer pain models suggest that receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) play an important role in processing pain and that modulation of the ECS can alleviate pain.

However, clinical trials have also shown that a better understanding of the interplay of various cannabinoids, and their specificity for different pain conditions, is essential to develop targeted pain medications that can effectively help patients.

At OCT, we use integrated drug discovery to ensure that synthetic and natural cannabinoids undergo a thorough process of testing and evaluation in order to understand how they work and to confirm that the drug candidates are not only efficacious, but, crucially, safe. We are particularly focused on orphan diseases. This approach not only allows the company to progress more effectively through focused preclinical stages, but it enables the design of better clinical trials as proof of concept, before targeting larger populations. More importantly, in this way, OCT makes sure that we can benefit patients who may be otherwise overlooked with a life-changing new therapeutic approach.