Drug for shingles relieves spinal cord injury pain

Australian doctors have discovered that patients with spinal cord injuries with moderate to severe nerve pain, received relief from a drug usually given to alleviate diabetic nerve pain and the pain from shingles.

The researchers at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia, found that spinal cord injury patients experienced less pain and in some cases, no pain at all, while taking the drug pregabalin.

Study author Philip J. Siddall, MBBS, PhD, says the findings are promising as spinal cord injury pain is a condition which generally responds poorly to currently available treatments.

The study which is thought to be the largest randomized controlled trial of spinal cord injury patients with nerve pain, involved 137 adults over a 12-week period.

Half of the group received pregabalin while the other half received a placebo and the researchers found at the end of 12 weeks, fewer than 16 percent of patients taking pregabalin had severe pain compared with 43 percent in the placebo group and over one-third of patients in the pregabalin group had none or only mild pain.

The pregabalin also had an effect in reducing sleep and anxiety problems compared to the placebo group.

Siddall says fifty-seven percent of patients taking pregabalin said they felt better overall compared to 21 percent in the placebo group and importantly the pain relief was rapid as the pregabalin group had significant pain relief after the first week of the study.

The most common side effects experienced from the drug were dizziness and drowsiness.

As many as 40 percent of people with spinal cord injury experience nerve pain; according to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, 450,000 people in the United States have spinal cord injuries and another 11,000 people sustain new spinal cord injuries each year.

Pregabalin is manufactured by Pfizer which helped fund the study.

The study published in the November 28, 2006, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

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