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Painful neuropathy or chronic pain: Duloxetine treatment

Duloxetine is a balanced serotonin and noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor licensed for the treatment of major depressive disorders, urinary stress incontinence and the management of neuropathic pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy. A number of trials have been conducted to investigate the use of duloxetine in neuropathic and nociceptive painful conditions.

The object of the study was to assess the benefits and harms of duloxetine for treating painful neuropathy and different types of chronic pain.

We searched The Cochrane Neuromuscular Group Specialized Register ( 10 March 2009 ), The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials ( The Cochrane Library Issue 3, 2009 ), MEDLINE ( January 1966 to March 2009 ), EMBASE ( January 1980 to March 2009 ), and www.clinicaltrials.gov to March 2009 and the reference lists of identified publications for trials of duloxetine used for the treatment of painful peripheral neuropathy or chronic pain.

We selected all randomised or quasi-randomised trials of any formulation of duloxetine, used for the treatment of painful peripheral neuropathy or chronic pain in adult participants.

Two authors extracted data independently onto a specially designed proforma and cross checked them.

Six trials were identified including 2220 participants. Three studies included participants with painful diabetic neuropathy and three treated participants with fibromyalgia. Duloxetine at 60 mg daily is effective in treating painful diabetic peripheral neuropathy in the short-term to 12 weeks with a risk ratio ( RR ) for 50% pain reduction at 12 weeks of 1.65 ( 95% confidence interval ( CI ) 1.34 to 2.03 ), number needed to treat ( NNT ) 6 ( 95% CI 5 to 10 ). Duloxetine at 60 mg daily is also effective in fibromyalgia over 12 weeks ( RR 50% reduction in pain 1.57, 95% CI 1.20 to 2.06; NNT 8, 95% CI 5 to 17 ) and 28 weeks ( RR 1.58, 95% CI 1.10 to 2.27 ). Adverse events were common in both treatment and placebo arms but more common in the treatment arm with a dose dependent effect. Most side effects were minor, but 16% of participants stopped the drug due to side effects. Serious adverse events were rare.

There is moderately strong evidence that duloxetine 60 mg and 120 mg daily are efficacious for treating pain in diabetic peripheral neuropathy and fibromyalgia but 20 mg daily is not. Minor side effects are common at therapeutic doses but serious side effects are rare. Direct comparisons of duloxetine with other antidepressants and with other drugs already shown to be efficacious in neuropathic pain would be appropriate and should include unbiased economic analyses.

Source: Cochrane Database, 2009