Researchers discover treatment for spinal cord injury pain

ST. PAUL, Minn – Spinal cord injury patients with moderate to severe nerve pain experienced less pain and in some cases no pain while taking the drug pregabalin, according to a study published in the November 28, 2006, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"The findings are promising as spinal cord injury pain is a condition which generally responds poorly to currently available treatments," said study author Philip J. Siddall, MBBS, PhD, with Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Australia.

The study, considered to be the largest randomized controlled trial of spinal cord injury patients with nerve pain, involved 137 adults in Australia over a 12-week period. Half of the group received pregabalin; the other half received a placebo.

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 no or mild pain.

The study also found pregabalin reduced sleep and anxiety problems compared to the placebo group.

"Pregabalin was significantly more effective in relieving pain, improving sleep, anxiety, and overall well-being in patients with spinal cord injury compared to placebo," said Siddall. "Fifty-seven percent of patients taking pregabalin said they felt better overall compared to 21 percent in the placebo group."

Siddall said the pain relief was rapid as the pregabalin group had significant pain relief after the first week of the study. The drug's most common side effects were dizziness and drowsiness.

Nerve pain is estimated to occur in up to 40 percent of people with spinal cord injury. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, as many as 450,000 people in the United States have spinal cord injuries and about 11,000 people sustain new spinal cord injuries each year.

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Pregabalin is currently used to treat two of the most common types of nerve pain: diabetic nerve pain and pain after shingles. The drug is manufactured by Pfizer Inc., which supported this study.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 19,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, Parkinson disease, and multiple sclerosis.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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