Gabapentin in the treatment of uremic itch: an index case and a pilot evaluation

Lucio Manenti, Augusto Vaglio, Ester Costantino, Domenico Danisi, Bruno Oliva, Sergio Pini, Elisabetta Prati, Angelo Testori
Journal of Nephrology 2005, 18 (1): 86-91

BACKGROUND: The prevalence of renal itch in patients on dialysis is approximately 30%, but its treatment is often ineffective. We describe an index case of a hemodialysis (HD) patient suffering from painful diabetic neuropathy (PDN) treated with gabapentin; the first administration of the drug led to the complete remission of the concomitant uremic pruritus. Subsequently, we report the results of a pilot evaluation aimed at testing the effectiveness and safety of low gabapentin doses in HD patients with uremic pruritus.

METHODS: Five consecutive HD patients unresponsive to antihistamines received 4-week gabapentin treatment at a starting dose of 100 mg after every thrice-weekly HD, which was subsequently adjusted based on clinical response. Puritus severity was evaluated by means of a visual analogue scale (VAS) before each HD session on days 0, 2, 4, 7, 14, 21, 28 and 35. Safety was assessed using adverse event data.

RESULTS: All patients experienced a rapid subjective improvement in pruritus, with the mean VAS score decreasing from 8.4-1.6 after the first drug administration. Three patients required a dose increase to 100 mg four times a week to obtain better itch control. Two patients experienced complete itch remission.

CONCLUSION: Although a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial should be conducted to better elucidate the efficacy and toxicity of gabapentin in patients with uremic itch, our data suggest that gabapentin could be considered an effective and safe alternative treatment for uremic pruritus.

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