Safety and efficacy of alpha-lipoic acid oral supplementation in the reduction of pain with unknown etiology: A monocentric, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial

Biomed Pharmacother. 2021 Dec:144:112308. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2021.112308. Epub 2021 Oct 12.


Introduction: Extensive evidence suggests that alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) is effective in diabetic neuropathy pain management. However, little is known on its safety and efficacy in reducing idiopathic pain in normoglycemic subjects. The aim of this study was to evaluate ALA food supplement safety and efficacy in the reduction of different forms of idiopathic pain.

Methods: Two-hundred and ten normoglycemic adults suffering from idiopathic pain (i.e. 57 subjects with primitive neuropathic pain, 141 subjects with arthralgia with unknown etiology, and 12 subjects with idiopathic myalgia) were randomized to receive placebo, 400 mg/day, or 800 mg/day of ALA. Participants underwent two visits (at baseline = t0, and after 2 months = t1) in which two validated questionaries for pain (numerical rating scale [NRS] and visual analogue scale [VAS]) were collected; fasting blood glucose assessment, adverse effects, and renal and hepatic toxicity were also monitored.

Results: At t1, none of subjects treated with ALA reported a decreased glycemia or adverse effects. The treated subjects showed a significant reduction in NRS (p < 0.001) while the placebo group did not show any NRS reduction (p = 0.86). Similar results were also obtained for VAS. Statistical analysis aimed at detecting possible differences in NRS and VAS scores among treatment groups based on the source of pain did not reveal any significant effect.

Conclusions: Since the management of idiopathic pain is challenging for physicians, the use of ALA food supplements could be a feasible option, based on its safety and efficacy compared to commonly-used analgesic drugs.

Keywords: Alpha-lipoic acid; Efficacy; Food supplement; Idiopathic pain; Safety.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain / diagnosis
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Pain Management* / adverse effects
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain Threshold / drug effects*
  • Thioctic Acid / administration & dosage*
  • Thioctic Acid / adverse effects
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics
  • Thioctic Acid