Notalgia paresthetica—a nerve disorder characterized by a persistent itch in the upper back—is a common and underdiagnosed condition worldwide.
To date, there are no FDA-approved treatments specifically targeting this disorder.
In a study from Mount Sinai, scientists found that people experiencing moderate-to-severe itching linked to the disorder could potentially get relief with oral difelikefalin.
Currently, difelikefalin—a selective kappa-opioid receptor agonist—is only FDA-approved as an injection for the treatment of moderate-to-severe itching associated with chronic kidney disease in adults undergoing hemodialysis.
The team says for those who experience chronic itch of any kind, relief can sometimes seem unattainable.
But treatment with difelikefalin resulted in a reduction in the intensity of itch in patients with notalgia paresthetica.
In the study, patients with moderate-to-severe itching from notalgia paresthetica were assigned to receive oral difelikefalin 2 mg or a placebo twice daily for eight weeks.
Of 126 patients, 62 were assigned to receive difelikefalin and 63 to receive a placebo.
The team found a reduction from baseline in the worst itch score at week eight was 4.0 points for patients receiving difelikefalin versus 2.4 points for patients receiving a placebo.
They also found headache, dizziness, constipation, and increased urine output occurred with difelikefalin.
The team says larger studies are needed to better assess the efficacy and safety of difelikefalin in notalgia paresthetica.
If progress continues, this medication would be the first FDA-approved drug specifically for people with notalgia paresthetica.
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The study was conducted by Brian S. Kim et al and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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