Duloxetine is a serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) with central nervous system activity. Its analgesic efficacy in central pain is putatively related to its influence on descending inhibitory pain pathways. The analgesic efficacy of duloxetine has been demonstrated in four distinct chronic pain conditions. These include neuropathic pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, fibromyalgia, chronic low back pain, and osteoarthritis knee pain (OAKP). The purpose of this review is to examine the clinical efficacy and safety of duloxetine in the management of chronic OAKP. Three separate randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trials have demonstrated that (1) a clinically meaningful decrease in pain severity occurs at about 4 weeks relative to placebo, (2) patients receiving duloxetine report better improvements in physical functioning relative to placebo, (3) duloxetine is safe and effective when used adjunctively with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and (4) that there are no new safety signals beyond what has been observed in other indications.
Keywords: Chronic pain management; drug interactions; duloxetine; osteoarthritis.