Drug curbs severe facial pain: study

NEW YORK Fri Jul 3, 2009 10:34am EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Results of a small study suggest that the drug pregabalin (sold as Lyrica) can reduce stabbing facial pain and other symptoms stemming from a condition called trigeminal neuralgia.

The condition occurs in the trigeminal nerve, which affects perceptions of touch, pain and temperature in the face and jaw. People with trigeminal neuralgia experience shock-like or stabbing facial pain that may be triggered by everyday motions such as talking, tooth brushing or chewing. Few medications relieve the condition.

"Our findings suggest that pregabalin could be a first choice therapy when treating painful trigeminal neuralgia under 'real world' conditions, because it not only reduces the pain, but also its benefits extend to the associated symptoms of anxiety and depression and sleep disturbance-related symptoms -- in a well-tolerated fashion," lead investigator Dr. Concepcion Perez told Reuters Health.

Pregabalin, a drug that calms nerve cells, gained U.S. regulatory approval last year to treat another pain condition called fibromyalgia.

Dr. Perez, of Hospital de La Princesa, Madrid and colleagues examined the effect of pregabalin in 65 patients with trigeminal neuralgia who had not received the agent before and had been resistant to previous analgesic therapy.

Of this group, 36 received pregabalin alone and the remaining 29 used it in addition to their current therapy, mainly with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Following 12 weeks of treatment, both groups showed a greater than 55% reduction in pain intensity. Almost 60% of responders showed pain reduction of more than 50%.

There were also significant improvements in a variety of other measures, including a reduction in anxiety and depression and enhancement in sleep and in functioning.

The team calls for further studies, but concludes that in spite of the small sample size, the results "support the effectiveness of pregabalin for the improvement in pain and related health symptoms."

With pregabalin, doctors "have the opportunity to increase their options to clinically manage this condition, which is good news both for patients and physicians," Perez added.

SOURCE: Cephalalgia, July 2009.

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