alexa Pharmacotherapy for neuropathic pain in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis


Journal of Aging Science

Author(s): Nanna B Finnerup, Nadine Attal, Simon Haroutounian, Ewan McNicol, Ralf Baron

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Background Neuropathic pain is difficult to treat. New treatments, clinical trials and standards of quality for assessing evidence justify an update of evidence-based recommendations for its pharmacological treatment. Methods The Neuropathic Pain Special Interest Group (NeuPSIG) of the International Association for the Study of Pain conducted a systematic review of randomised double-blind studies of oral and topical pharmacotherapy for neuropathic pain, including unpublished trials (retrieved from and pharmaceutical websites). Meta-analysis used Numbers Needed to Treat (NNT) for 50 % pain relief as primary measure and assessed publication bias. Recommendations used the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE). Findings In total 229 studies were included. Analysis of publication bias suggested a 10% overstatement of treatment effects. Studies published in peer-review journals reported greater effects than online studies (R2=9·3%, p<0·01). Trial outcomes were generally modest even for effective drugs : in particular NNTs were 3·6 (95 % CI 3·0–4·4) for tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), 6·4 (95 % CI 5·2–8·4) for serotonin- noradrenaline reuptake inbibitor (SNRI) antidepressants duloxetine and venlafaxine, 7·7 (95 % CI 6·5–9·4) for pregabalin and 6·3 (95 % CI 5·0–8·3) for gabapentin. NNTs were higher for gabapentin ER/enacarbil and capsaicin high concentration patches, lower for opioids and botulinum toxin A (BTX-A) and undetermined for lidocaine patches. Final quality of evidence was lower for lidocaine patches and BTX-A. Tolerability/safety and values/preferences were high for lidocaine patches and lower for opioids and TCAs. This permitted a strong GRADE recommendation for use and proposal as first line for TCAs, SNRIs, pregabalin, gabapentin and gabapentin ER/enacarbil in neuropathic pain, a weak recommendation for use and proposal as second line for lidocaine patches, capsaicin patches and tramadol, and a weak recommendations for use and proposal as third line for strong opioids (particularly oxycodone and morphine) and BTX-A. Data for cannabinoids, tapentadol, drug combinations, and several other antiepileptics, antidepressants and topical drugs were inconclusive. Interpretation Limited efficacy, large placebo responses, inadequate diagnostic criteria and poor phenotypic profiling probably account for modest trial outcomes and should be taken into account in future studies.

This article was published in Lancet Neurology and referenced in Journal of Aging Science

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