Measuring the contribution of pharmacological treatment to advice to stay active in patients with subacute low-back pain: a randomised controlled trial

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2005 Dec;14(12):861-7. doi: 10.1002/pds.1114.


Purpose: In clinical guidelines for acute and subacute low-back pain, pharmacological treatment is recommended for short-term symptomatic relief. The objective was to study the effect of the guidelines' advise to remain active, alone and with the addition of the drug adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP), in patients with subacute low-back pain.

Methods: A drug-guidelines effectiveness trial was undertaken simultaneously to an experimental drug efficacy placebo controlled trial in subacute (4-12 weeks) non-specific low-back pain patients. The 132 participating primary care physicians across France were randomised to participate to either trial. In the drug-guidelines trial, all physicians received a quick consultation card containing the key elements of the clinical guidelines and a brochure that gave their patients practical tips to remain active. Patients were then randomised to receive Atepadene, containing 90 mg of ATP by mouth daily for 30 days (guidelines plus ATP group), or nothing beside the rescue drug that was made available to all patients (guidelines alone group). The principal outcome was functional improvement on the Roland-Morris Disability Questionnaire (RDQ) at 90 days.

Results: In the drug-guidelines effectiveness trial, 157 patients were randomised. The rate of improvement in the RDQ over the 90 days of follow-up was superior in the group guidelines plus ATP (8.3 points, 95% confidence interval (CI): 7.3-9.3) than in the group guidelines alone (6.5 points, 95%CI: 5.3-7.7) (p = 0.02). In terms of probability of improving between two to five points on the RDQ at 90 days this difference translated in a 2 to 13 times higher probability compared to the group guidelines alone (odds ratios ranging from 2.1, 95%CI: 0.9-5.0 to 12.9, 95%CI: 1.6-103.4). Patients in the group guidelines plus ATP were also three times less likely to report a condition that had worsened or remained unimproved at 90 days (p = 0.02).

Conclusion: This drug-guidelines effectiveness trial showed a modest advantage of combined specific pharmacologic and non-pharmacological treatments on absolute improvement on the RDQ. A threefold reduction in the risk of chronicity was observed, an important goal in low-back pain guidelines.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / therapeutic use*
  • Adult
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • France
  • Humans
  • Low Back Pain / drug therapy*
  • Low Back Pain / therapy*
  • Male
  • Physicians
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Primary Health Care


  • Adenosine Triphosphate