Research finds new way to treat neuropathic pain

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Scientists from the University of Missouri have made significant advancements in identifying effective treatments for cryptogenic sensory polyneuropathy (CSPN), a type of neuropathic pain that affects over 20 million people in the U.S.

This condition, characterized by nerve damage that causes pain without an obvious source, has long puzzled healthcare providers due to a lack of clear guidelines for drug treatments.

In their research, published in JAMA Neurology by Richard Barohn and his team, the scientists aimed to compare the effectiveness of four commonly used medications for CSPN.

The study involved 402 patients who were 30 years or older, all experiencing a pain level of four or higher on a 10-point scale.

These participants were treated with one of four drugs: nortriptyline, a tricyclic antidepressant; duloxetine, a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor; pregabalin, an anti-seizure drug; or mexiletine, an anti-arrhythmic medication.

Over a 12-week period, the effectiveness of these drugs was closely monitored, with evaluations conducted at four, eight, and twelve weeks. The outcomes showed varying degrees of success among the medications.

Nortriptyline emerged with the highest efficacious percentage at 25% and had a relatively low dropout rate of 38%, suggesting it might be the most beneficial overall. Duloxetine followed closely with a 23% efficacy rate and the lowest dropout rate at 37%.

In contrast, pregabalin and mexiletine were less effective, with pregabalin showing the lowest efficacy at 15% and mexiletine having the highest dropout rate at 58%.

These findings indicate that while no single drug completely outshone the others, nortriptyline and duloxetine provided the most promising results in terms of both efficacy and patient adherence.

The study highlights the complexity of treating CSPN and underscores the need for further research.

The researchers suggest that future studies could include other non-narcotic medications such as gabapentin, venlafaxine, and additional sodium channel inhibitors, which are also used to treat peripheral neuropathy pain.

Such research could expand the available data and help physicians make more informed decisions when prescribing treatments for this challenging condition.

By building a more comprehensive library of comparative effectiveness research, healthcare providers may eventually have clearer guidelines to help the millions suffering from CSPN manage their symptoms more effectively, enhancing their quality of life.

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