Pharmacological treatments of neuropathic pain: real-life comparisons using propensity score matching

Pain. 2022 May 1;163(5):964-974. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000002461.


Studies comparing different drug treatments for chronic neuropathic pain (NP) are very limited. We, therefore, examined 4 recommended treatments, namely, antidepressants (duloxetine, venlafaxine, and tricyclic antidepressants), antiepileptics (gabapentine and pregabalin), weak opioids, and strong opioids, among patients with NP evaluated before first visit in a tertiary pain treatment centre and 6 months later. Patients with both a clinical diagnosis of NP and a DN4 score ≥3/7 were selected from patients enrolled in the Quebec Pain Registry. Each participant was assigned an inverse weighting of the probability of receiving any NP treatment, taking into account their age, sex, baseline pain intensity, pain duration, pain catastrophizing tendency, education level, employment, and comedications at 6-month follow-up (M6). Patients were considered as improved if they presented at least a 30% reduction on average pain intensity at M6 compared with baseline. A total of 944 patients completed both baseline and M6 evaluations. Overall, 23.0% of patients were significantly improved for pain intensity at M6. There was no significant difference in proportions patients taking or not antidepressants, gabapentinoids, or weak opioids. Among patients taking strong opioids (N = 288), 13.9% (N = 40/288) were improved vs 27.0% (177/656) of those who were not on opioids (P < 0.004). Inverse probability of treatment weighting confirmed that the proportion of patients who improved was significantly lower among those taking strong opioids compared with those who did not (P < 0.001). In conclusion, long-term use of strong opioids is a treatment suited for a limited proportion of patients with chronic NP.

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid* / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neuralgia* / diagnosis
  • Neuralgia* / drug therapy
  • Pain Management
  • Pregabalin / therapeutic use
  • Propensity Score


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Pregabalin