Pregabalin: new drug. Very similar to gabapentin

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Prescrire International 2005, 14 (80): 203-6
(1) The first-line treatment for partial epilepsy is carbamazepine monotherapy; gabapentin monotherapy is an alternative, given its lower risk of drug-drug interactions. (2) The standard treatment for neuropathic pain associated with diabetes or post-herpetic neuralgia is a tricyclic antidepressant, with gabapentin as an alternative. Few drugs are available in this setting, and their efficacy is often modest. (3) Pregabalin is a GABA analogue closely related to gabapentin. Both drugs are marketed by Pfizer. Pregabalin has been approved for use in two indications: refractory partial epilepsy and neuropathic pain. (4) In patients with partial epilepsy inadequately controlled by a combination of two or possibly three antiepileptics, three placebo-controlled double-blind trials lasting 12 weeks suggest that adjunctive pregabalin treatment, at a dose of 600 mg/day divided in two or three doses, at least halves the frequency of seizures in 50% of patients. Pregabalin has not been compared with other second-line antiepileptics. (5) In neuropathic pain, there are 12 double-blind placebo-controlled trials involving patients with diabetes or post-herpetic neuralgia. Depending on the trial, between one-third and one-half of patients treated with pregabalin at a dose of 600 mg/day given in two or three doses had at least a 50% reduction in their pain score. In the only trial that included a group treated with amitriptyline (75 mg/day), the latter was significantly more effective than placebo, while pregabalin was not. (6) There are no comparative trials of pregabalin after amitriptyline and gabapentin failure. (7) The adverse effects profile of pregabalin is similar to that of gabapentin, and includes mainly neuropsychological reactions (dizziness and drowsiness). (8) Pregabalin, like gabapentin, can lead to weight gain and peripheral oedema especially in elderly patients. (9) Cases of visual field restriction have been reported with pregabalin in clinical trials. Animal studies suggest a possible risk of haemangiosarcoma, although no human cases have yet been described. (10) Pregabalin, like gabapentin, is eliminated unchanged in urine, implying a limited risk of interactions involving cytochrome P450, and suggesting that the dose should be reduced in patients with even moderate renal failure (creatinine clearance below 60 ml/min). (11) In practice, pregabalin offers nothing new for patients with partial epilepsy, for whom several other antiepileptics are available. The few available treatments for neuropathic pain have limited efficacy, and pregabalin may therefore be tried when both tricyclics and gabapentin fail. However, it is in no way certain that pregabalin is effective in such patients, and comparative trials are lacking.

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