Clinical Trials in Pain Research
Marten Harbers
Marten Harbers
Director Project Delivery – Early Development Services

Pain is one of the most common symptoms reported by patients in many therapeutic areas, making proper pain management a very important goal in pharmaceutical research. Finding new and improved treatment options for acute and chronic pain are the focus of many ongoing clinical trials at PRA.

To further enhance our efforts in finding solutions, we are upgrading and restructuring our Netherlands facility in Groningen, uniting our custom-built Clinical Research Unit at the Martini Hospital (opened in 2016) with our clinic at the University Medical Center Groningen. Bringing these together into one facility, which hosts two Intensive Pharmacology Units, 150 beds, our EU GMP-licensed pharmacy, and fully automated Clinical Safety Laboratory, we will further increase our quality of work as well as flexibility toward clients and volunteers in this modern, state-of-the-art clinic.

Learn more about our pain studies here.

Clinic exterior

We have a team of pain experts available to design clinical trials for new pain medication to assess the efficacy of these new drugs in a very early stage of the clinical development. In our clinic we can perform several pain tests to measure the effectiveness of new pain drugs. These test measure the sensation and pain thresholds for cold and heat, mechanical pricking, pressure, and other sensory stimulations. These tests are part of a standardized test battery for sensory and pain research called “Quantitative Sensory Testing” (QST).

With this QST test battery, PRA has performed pain research and clinical trials for new drugs for the treatment of neuropathic pain. Neuropathic pain is a chronic form of pain that is caused by nerve damage and which can have a large impact on your daily life.


For this type of pain indications the treatment options are still very limited and there is a large unmet need for new and better treatment options. Using several models for neuropathic pain applying short acting pepper cream and short lasting “UV sun burn” our clinical experts can investigate the mechanism of neuropathic pain in a population of healthy volunteers in the early stage of the clinical development of new drugs.

The QST test battery can also be used to test the treatment of acute pain and local anesthesia. Very recently we have applied a selected group of pain tests in a study where we investigated a new drug for local anesthesia. This type of local anesthesia is used for small operations on the hand or arm without the need for full anesthesia during surgery. With our selected battery of sensory and pain tests our clinical team was able to assess the efficacy of the new drug over time by measuring the depth of the anesthesia on the skin of the arm.


To perform the local anesthetic nerve block of the arm our PRA CRU worked together with board-certified anesthesiologists of the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG). After the anesthesiologist performed the local nerve block, the clinical research team tested the sensation of warm, cold, pricking, and light touch on the arm. The results indicated that there was no sensation at all in the arm after the nerve block which is exactly the result you are looking for in new local anesthetic drug.

We’re excited about our “refreshed” clinic and hope to help find new ways to reduce or end pain for patients in the future.