Efficacy and Safety of Low Doses of Trazodone in Patients Affected by Painful Diabetic Neuropathy and Treated with Gabapentin: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Study

Paola Lipone, Edvard Ehler, Marcin Nastaj, Ilona Palka-Kisielowska, Giorgio Cruccu, Andrea Truini, Giorgio Di Loreto, Alessandra Del Vecchio, Ilena Pochiero, Alessandro Comandini, Fabrizio Calisti, Agnese Cattaneo
CNS Drugs 2020 September 16

BACKGROUND: Painful diabetic neuropathy is an important therapeutic challenge as the efficacy of analgesic drugs in this setting is still unsatisfactory. Monotherapy with available treatments is often not sufficient and a combination of drugs is necessary. Trazodone (TRZ) is a compound with a multi-modal mechanism of action, being a serotonin-2 antagonist/reuptake inhibitor developed and approved for the treatment of depression in several countries. Previous clinical trials suggest a possible beneficial effect of low doses of trazodone for the treatment of patients affected by painful diabetic neuropathy.

OBJECTIVE: This phase II study was designed to collect data on the efficacy and safety of low doses of TRZ combined with gabapentin after 8 weeks of treatment in patients affected by painful diabetic neuropathy.

METHODS: This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center, international, prospective study. Male and female diabetic patients aged 18-75 years and affected by painful diabetic neuropathy were eligible for enrollment. Subjects were randomized (1:1:1 ratio) to TRZ30 (10 mg three times daily for 8 weeks) or TRZ60 (20 mg three times daily for 8 weeks) or placebo. Gabapentin as background therapy was administered in open-label conditions to all patients. The primary endpoint was the change from baseline of the Brief Pain Inventory Short Form item 5 to week 8. Secondary endpoints included the other Brief Pain Inventory Short Form items, and the assessment of anxiety, sleep, quality of life, patient's improvement, and safety.

RESULTS: One hundred and forty-one patients were included in the intention-to-treat population: 43 allocated to the TRZ30 group, 50 to the TRZ60 group, and 48 to the placebo group. After 8 weeks, the mean changes of Brief Pain Inventory Short Form item 5 from baseline were - 3.1, - 2.6, and - 2.5 in the TRZ30, TRZ60, and placebo groups, respectively. No statistically significant differences between groups were seen. Nevertheless, a better trend was observed for TRZ30 vs placebo (95% confidence interval - 1.30, 0.15; p = 0.1179), on top of the background effect of gabapentin administered to all study groups. 62.8% of patients achieved a ≥ 50% reduction in the TRZ30 group, 54% in the TRZ60 group, and 45.8% in the placebo group. At the same time, a statistically significant improvement was observed in Brief Pain Inventory Short Form item 6 for TRZ30 vs placebo (95% confidence interval - 1.54, - 0.07; p = 0.0314). No serious adverse event occurred during the trial and the most frequent treatment-emergent adverse events involved nervous system, QT prolongation, and gastrointestinal disorders.

CONCLUSIONS: All treatment groups showed a clinically meaningful pain improvement; nevertheless, patients in the TRZ30 treatment group reported better efficacy outcomes. This finding suggests that low doses of TRZ could be useful for treating painful diabetic neuropathy, and support further adequately powered confirmatory trials investigating the efficacy of TRZ.

CLINICAL TRIAL REGISTRATION: NCT03202979, date of registration: 29/06/2017.

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