Anthony DiTonno: Providing long-term, noninvasive pain relief

San Mateo-based pharmaceutical company NeurogesX’s search for treatments for chronic pain has led the company to look in some surprizing places.

Presiding over the hunt for NeurogesX is Anthony DiTonno, a 25-year veteran in the medical industry who joined the company in April of 2003. Since being promoted to president and CEO in August of that year, DiTonno has helped oversee the development of NeurogesX’s top pain-relieving product, the NGX-4010 dermal patch.

Created to treat neuropathic pain, a chronic pain often described as a burning sensation by its victims, NGX-4010 overwhelms receptors in C-Fibers — the fibers in the central nervous system that sense burning-by introducing a highly-synthesized enzyme found in chili peppers to the patient’s skin. The enzyme, capsaicin, interrupts the signal of burning pain from the C-Fiber to the brain, providing relief.

“Our product is unique for a couple of reasons,” DiTonno said. “First, because it’s not administered in the bloodstream, there aren’t any regular side effects like dizziness or drowsiness. Second, the patch has proven, through three long-range tests, to alleviate pain in a victim for three to four months after just one administration of the treatment.”

NeurogesX is applying for marketing authorization of NGX-4010 from European medical authorities. The company is hoping to have its product approved by the Federal Drug Administration in 2008.

As the NGX-4010 readies for approval by the FDA, NeurogesX continues to work on two new products. The NGX-1998, a drug similar in nature to the 4010, but in a liquid form, is in the first phase of its development, and another stronger, more potent pain reliever, called opioid prodrug, is in its preclinical phase.

While he remains involved in the product development process, DiTonno mainly focuses on the managerial and commercial marketing aspects of NeurogesX, helping to maintain the economic viability of the company while it pursues new medical endeavors.

“We have to keep our shareholders aware of the progress we’re making with each product,” DiTonno said. “It takes a joint effort to see that everything is carried out smoothly. In the end, we hope to provide the type of relief that can truly make a difference for people with chronic pain.”

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