Can FDA-Approved Immunomodulatory Drugs be Repurposed/Repositioned to Alleviate Chronic Pain?

J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2021 Sep;16(3):531-547. doi: 10.1007/s11481-021-10000-z. Epub 2021 May 26.


Pain is among the most widespread chronic health condition confronting society today and our inability to manage chronic pain contributes to the opioid abuse epidemic in America. The immune system is known to contribute to acute and chronic pain, but only limited therapeutic treatments such as non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs have resulted from this knowledge. The last decade has shed light on neuro-immune interactions mediating the development, maintenance, and resolution of chronic pain. Here, we do not aim to perform a comprehensive review of all immune mechanisms involved in chronic pain, but to briefly review the contribution of the main cytokines and immune cells (macrophages, microglia, mast cells and T cells) to chronic pain. Given the urgent need to address the Pain crisis, we provocatively propose to repurpose/reposition FDA-approved immunomodulatory drugs for their potential to alleviate chronic pain. Repositioning or repurposing offers an attractive way to accelerate the arrival of new analgesics.

Keywords: Analgesics; FDA-approved; Immune cells; Neuro-immune interaction; Pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Pain* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulating Agents
  • Neuroimmunomodulation


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Immunomodulating Agents