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Keywords:

  • blockers;
  • inhibitors;
  • ion channels;
  • sodium channels;
  • subtype selectivity

Abstract

Blockade of voltage-gated sodium channels (VGSCs) has been used successfully in the clinic to enable control of pathological firing patterns that occur in conditions as diverse as chronic pain, epilepsy, and arrhythmias. Herein we review the state of the art in marketed sodium channel inhibitors, including a brief compendium of their binding sites and of the cellular and molecular biology of sodium channels. Despite the preferential action of this drug class toward over-excited cells, which significantly limits potential undesired side effects on other cells, the need to develop a second generation of sodium channel inhibitors to overcome their critical clinical shortcomings is apparent. Current approaches in drug discovery to deliver novel and truly innovative sodium channel inhibitors is next presented by surveying the most recent medicinal chemistry breakthroughs in the field of small molecules and developments in automated patch-clamp platforms. Various strategies aimed at identifying small molecules that target either particular isoforms of sodium channels involved in specific diseases or anomalous sodium channel currents, irrespective of the isoform by which they have been generated, are critically discussed and revised.