Context: Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a syndrome of often intractable neuropathic pain following herpes zoster (shingles) that eludes effective treatment in many patients.
Objective: To determine the efficacy and safety of the anticonvulsant drug gabapentin in reducing PHN pain.
Design: Multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel design, 8-week trial conducted from August 1996 through July 1997.
Setting: Sixteen US outpatient clinical centers.
Participants: A total of 229 subjects were randomized.
Intervention: A 4-week titration period to a maximum dosage of 3600 mg/d of gabapentin or matching placebo. Treatment was maintained for another 4 weeks at the maximum tolerated dose. Concomitant tricyclic antidepressants and/or narcotics were continued if therapy was stabilized prior to study entry and remained constant throughout the study.
Main outcome measures: The primary efficacy measure was change in the average daily pain score based on an 11-point Likert scale (0, no pain; 10, worst possible pain) from baseline week to the final week of therapy. Secondary measures included average daily sleep scores, Short-Form McGill Pain Questionnaire (SF-MPQ), Subject Global Impression of Change and investigator-rated Clinical Global Impression of Change, Short Form-36 (SF-36) Quality of Life Questionnaire, and Profile of Mood States (POMS). Safety measures included the frequency and severity of adverse events.
Results: One hundred thirteen patients received gabapentin, and 89 (78.8%) completed the study; 116 received placebo, and 95 (81.9%) completed the study. By intent-to-treat analysis, subjects receiving gabapentin had a statistically significant reduction in average daily pain score from 6.3 to 4.2 points compared with a change from 6.5 to 6.0 points in subjects randomized to receive placebo (P<.001). Secondary measures of pain as well as changes in pain and sleep interference showed improvement with gabapentin (P<.001). Many measures within the SF-36 and POMS also significantly favored gabapentin (P< or =.01). Somnolence, dizziness, ataxia, peripheral edema, and infection were all more frequent in the gabapentin group, but withdrawals were comparable in the 2 groups (15 [13.3%] in the gabapentin group vs 11 [9.5%] in the placebo group).
Conclusions: Gabapentin is effective in the treatment of pain and sleep interference associated with PHN. Mood and quality of life also improve with gabapentin therapy.