Introduction: Painful peripheral neuropathy is a common, difficult-to-treat complication associated with a variety of diseases, including diabetes mellitus and sarcoidosis. It is caused by damage of small and autonomic nerve fibers, resulting in potentially debilitating symptoms of neuropathic pain and autonomic dysfunction. The limited efficacy of current treatment options dictates a rationalized design of novel compounds.
Areas covered: The authors present the recent data from two Phase II clinical trials on ARA290, an erythropoietin derivative with tissue protective and healing properties that does not stimulate erythropoiesis. ARA 290 treatment was consistently associated with a significant improvement of neuropathic pain symptoms in sarcoidosis patients, evidenced by a decrease in pain scores on validated questionnaires. Moreover, ARA 290 treatment resulted in significant increases in corneal nerve fibers, improved sensory pain thresholds, improved quality of life and physical functioning.
Expert opinion: Current treatment modalities of neuropathy are based on a trial-and-error approach, have limited efficacy and come with significant side effects. Given the excellent safety profile while reducing neuropathy symptoms, the prospects of ARA 290 treatment in sarcoid neuropathy seem promising. The long-lasting beneficial effects of ARA 290 on both pain-related and non-pain-related symptoms in sarcoidosis patients prompt additional studies on potential disease-modifying properties of ARA 290.