Lamotrigine for acute and chronic pain

P J Wiffen, J Rees
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007 April 18, (2): CD006044

BACKGROUND: Anticonvulsant medicines have a place in the treatment of neuropathic pain (pain due to nerve damage). This review looks at the evidence for the pain relieving properties of lamotrigine.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the analgesic efficacy and adverse effects of the anticonvulsant lamotrigine for acute and chronic pain.

SEARCH STRATEGY: Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) of lamotrigine (and key brand names Lamictal, Lamictin, Neurium) in acute, chronic or cancer pain were identified from MEDLINE (1966 to August 2006), EMBASE 1994 to August 2006 and the CENTRAL register on The Cochrane Library (Issue 3, 2006). Additional reports were sought from the reference list of the retrieved papers.

SELECTION CRITERIA: RCTs investigating the use of lamotrigine (any dose and by any route) for treatment of acute or chronic pain. Assessment of pain intensity or pain relief, or both, using validated scales. Participants were adults aged 18 and over. Only full journal publication articles were included.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Dichotomous data were used to calculate relative risk with 95% confidence intervals using a fixed effects model unless significant statistical heterogeneity was found. Continuous data was also reported where available. Meta-analysis was undertaken using a fixed effect model unless significant heterogeneity was present (I(2) >50%) in which case a random effects model was used. Numbers-needed-to-treat (NNTs) were calculated as the reciprocal of the absolute risk reduction. For unwanted effects, the NNT becomes the number-needed-to-harm (NNH) and was calculated.

MAIN RESULTS: Sixteen studies were identified. Nine studies were excluded. No studies for acute pain were identified. The seven included studies involved 502 participants, all for neuropathic pain. The studies covered the following conditions: central post stroke pain (1), diabetic neuropathy (1), HIV related neuropathy (2), intractable neuropathic pain (1), spinal cord injury related pain (1) and trigeminal neuralgia (1). The studies included participants in the age range of 26 to 77 years. Only one study for HIV related neuropathy had a statistically significant result for a sub group of patients on anti-retroviral therapy; this result is unlikely to be clinically significant NNT 4.3 (95% CI 2.3 to 37). Approximately 7% of participants taking lamotrigine reported a skin rash.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Given the availability of more effective treatments including anticonvulsants and antidepressant medicines, lamotrigine does not have a significant place in therapy at present. The limited evidence currently available suggests that lamotrigine is unlikely to be of benefit for the treatment of neuropathic pain.

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