Bloomberg Businessweek

Beyond Opioids

Researchers are unlocking the genetic underpinnings of pain to develop innovative treatments

The pain in Susan Hahla’s feet started as pins and needles, then progressed to flickering fires. Each month, Hahla found herself in a different doctor’s office, waiting for another disease to be crossed off the list: no restless leg syndrome, no rheumatism, and no, thank goodness, multiple sclerosis.

Finally, doctors at Oslo University Hospital in Norway diagnosed her with small-fiber neuropathy, a disorder caused when nerves misfire. “It gave me a good feeling that I wasn’t dreaming up something,” says Hahla, 71. But finding a treatment proved elusive. Some drugs had no effect on the pain; one, usually prescribed for epilepsy, left her forgetful and unable to walk a straight line.

After suffering for more than a

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