You’ve probably seen their commercials on T.V or in magazines promoting relief from nerve pain. Perhaps you’ve tried taking them – or are even still taking them now. But despite giant marketing efforts and a 17x increase in usage over the last decade, some of the most common prescription drugs for neuropathy may be largely ineffective at reducing pain.
This is according to research conducted through the Therapeutics Initiative at the University of B.C. The Therapeutics Initiative (TI), established in 1994 by the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, aims to provide physicians and pharmacists with up-to-date, evidence-based, practical information on prescription drug therapies.
To reduce bias as much as possible the TI is an independent organization; their research isn’t funded, influenced or manipulated by any company or group to give favor or bias to a particular product or treatment.
According to their most recent research on prescription drug treatments for reducing nerve pain, some of the most common drugs used are largely ineffective – and in many cases result in adverse side effects. Let’s take a look at a few of the questions you may have about prescription medications for nerve pain and the surprising answers this unbiased research gives us.
What drugs were studied?
The drugs mentioned in the study were:
- Pregabalin (Common brands: Lyrica)
- Gabapentin (Common brands: Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant)
- Duloxetine (Common brands: Cymbalta)
- Venlafaxine (Common brands: Effexor)
These drugs are often prescribed to patients with chronic pain – especially neuropathic pain – as an alternative to long-term opioid therapy. The study notes that doctors often prescribe these medications to patients in higher doses and for longer periods than supported by clinical evidence. As we’ll see later – this may do more harm than good.
How effective were these drugs in reducing nerve pain?
At the rate in which the use of these drugs has increased over the last decade – you would think they would have a very high success rate among those with nerve pain. However, the results of the TI study showed them to be largely ineffective.
In fact, they estimate only one in ten patients will experience a reduction in pain as a result of taking these medications. Further, they showed that in those cases where patients experienced relief – the relief was minimal. In fact, on a ten-point scale, gabapentin only reduces neuropathic pain by a single point.
What if I try higher dosage or longer treatment?
Prescription pills for nerve painAs mentioned earlier, many doctors will prescribe a higher dosage or longer treatment than evidence supports. In fact, evidence shows that the effectiveness of these drugs does NOT increase with higher dosage or longer treatment. In some cases – using a higher dosage or extending the treatment period can actually result in adverse side effects.
If the drugs are going to help, you will notice a difference within the first week. If you experience no improvement within the first week of use, you should seek a new approach.
What are the adverse effects and how common are they?
Earlier we mentioned that only about one in ten patients experienced a reduction in pain (albeit a very minimal reduction) while taking the drugs listed above. Conversely, 80% of patients taking these drugs reported at least one adverse side effect. These side effects included somnolence, dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, dry mouth and constipation. If the drugs do provide relief, some of the side effects are manageable. However, if there is no relief within the first week – you’re better off discontinuing use and looking for new treatments.
So while the deep pockets of pharmaceutical companies flood our televisions with polished, convincing ads promising relief from nerve pain – the results of the third-party study by TI suggest the results may be more elusive than they appear. Of course, some may experience meaningful relief from various methods – so you should always consult your doctor and explore different options.
Which treatments – natural or prescription-based, have you tried? Which ones have had the most significant impact on your pain? Share your answers with us in the comments below or like us on Facebook and join the conversation.