Evidence-based pharmacological management of chronic neuropathic pain

Zarrin Ansari


Neuropathic pain (NP) is a chronic, debilitating symptomatology of lesions/injuries of the central and peripheral nervous system. As per pooled estimates, the prevalence is 7-8% in the general population; however, the prevalence varies with different neuropathic conditions. The aetiology can range from peripheral neuropathic conditions viz. peripheral diabetic neuropathic pain (PDNP), post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), trigeminal neuralgia, HIV- associated polyneuropathy, cervical radiculopathy to central neuropathic conditions, viz. central post-stroke pain, spinal cord injury and the neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis. Apart from the symptomatic perception of pain, neuropathic pain affects the cognitive and emotional aspects of the affected individual. The pain, being debilitating and resistant to over-the-counter analgesics, diminishes the quality of life, disrupts sleep and leads to psychiatric complications such as comorbid anxiety and depression. The management is palliative and involves drugs, psychological intervention, stimulations and nerve-blocking techniques. This review concentrates on the pharmacological therapeutic options available and focuses on the selection of the agent/s in accordance with the evidence. The first-line treatment includes the tricyclic antidepressants ([TCAs]; amitriptyline, nortriptyline), selective serotonin norepinephrine inhibitors ([SNRIs]; duloxetine, venlafaxine), calcium channel alpha 2 - delta ligands (pregabalin, gabapentin), carbamazepine and oxcarbazepine. Lidocaine plasters are first-line options for specific focal conditions such as post-herpetic neuralgia. The second-line therapy includes the opioid analgesics and tramadol. The choice of drug selection should complement the patient’s age, type of neuropathic condition, tolerability to an agent, comorbid condition and cost-effectiveness. Management must be individualized with a realistic and composite goal of making the pain tolerable and improving the cognitive and emotional well-being.


Neuropathic pain, Neuralgia, Pharmacological management, Algorithm, Analgesic agents, Evidence-based, Diabetic peripheral neuropathy

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