An update on analgesics

Br J Anaesth. 2011 Jul;107(1):19-24. doi: 10.1093/bja/aer126. Epub 2011 May 30.


Recent introduction of new analgesics into the clinic is best described as a slow process with activity classified into two main areas: improving analgesic efficacy/potency and reducing side-effect profile. This review article describes some of the recent advances with an emphasis on use in the acute setting. In this respect, opioids continue to be the mainstay (but not the only) analgesic and there have been important improvements in their clinical effect profile. For example, tapentadol has been introduced as a mixed opioid and norepinephrine uptake inhibitor which, unlike tramadol, does not require metabolic activation and does not suffer from isomer-dependent pharmacodynamics. Opioid antagonists have received much attention recently either used alone, methylnaltrexone (s.c) or alvimopan (p.o), or in combination, Targinact (oxycodone/naloxone), and appear to be effective in reducing opioid side-effects such as those in the gastrointestinal tract. Other agents where there has been recent development include the use of gabapentin, methylxanthines, and local anaesthetics. An interesting area of translation of basic research is in the inhibition of breakdown of endogenous opioids with opiorphin, targeting of the endocannabinoid system, and the use of ampakines to obtund opioid-induced side-effects. It is clear that there is still much work to be done, but the need for highly efficacious analgesics with good side-effect profile remains.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesia / trends*
  • Analgesics / pharmacology*
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic / pharmacology
  • Analgesics, Opioid / pharmacology
  • Chemistry, Pharmaceutical
  • Drug Delivery Systems / trends
  • Drug Discovery / methods
  • Drug Discovery / trends*
  • Humans


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Analgesics, Opioid