What treatments can improve pain and quality of life?
This comprehensive report was first published in April 2017 by Diabetes in Control and discusses what old and new medicines work for diabetic neuropathy and importantly which ones don’t.
Diabetic neuropathy is a nerve disorder that the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney disease estimates affects about 60 to 70% of diabetic patients in some form, with the highest rates of neuropathy occurring in patients who have had diabetes for over 25 years.
Although diabetic neuropathy can affect almost any organ in the body, the most common type of diabetic neuropathy is peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy, which is often worse at night, results in tingling, numbness, and pain occurring in the hands, arms, fingers, legs, feet, and toes.
The best way to prevent diabetic neuropathy is keeping glucose under control and maintaining a healthy weight, but for those who experience this painful condition, finding the best relief can often be difficult and confusing.
Building upon a previously published study from 2014, a new systemic review was conducted to “systemically assess the effect of pharmacological treatments of diabetic peripheral neuropathy (DPN) on pain and quality of life” plus a search of PubMed and Cochrane Database of systemic reviews (reviews from 2011 – March 2016).
A total of 106 randomized controlled trials were used in the final systemic review, including trials analyzed by the previously published study. Only two medications, duloxetine and venlafaxine, had a moderate strength of evidence (SOE) compared to the low strength of evidence found with the remaining 12 study medications. As a class, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) was found to be an effective treatment for diabetic neuropathy with the most commonly reported adverse effects of dizziness, nausea, and somnolence. Venlafaxine and tricyclic antidepressants were also determine to be effective at relieving pain compared to placebo using the previous analysis’ data.
Pregabalin was determined to be effective at reducing pain compared to placebo but found to have a low SOE due to the inclusion of four unpublished studies causing potential bias. Pregabalin, as well as the other anticonvulsants included, had adverse effects of dizziness, nausea, and somnolence.
Oxcarbazepine was also found to be an effective neuropathy pain reliever compared to placebo.
Atypical opioids have a dual mechanism of action, norepinephrine reuptake inhibition and mu antagonism, which aids in a class wide effective pain relief compared to placebo, and more specifically tramadol and tapentadol were found to be effective vs placebo. The most common adverse effects reported for opioids were constipation, somnolence, and nausea.
The last medication that was determined to be an effective pain reliever of diabetic neuropathy compared to placebo was botulinum toxin
Gabapentin, using five randomized controlled trials, was determined at two different doses to be ineffective at treating pain when compared to placebo. Other agents that were determined to be ineffective treatments for diabetic neuropathy were typical opioids (oxycodone), topical capsaicin 0.075%, dextromethorphan, and mexiletine.
Pregabalin, oxcarbazepine, and tapentadol have shown to be effective vs placebo at relieving pain due to diabetic neuropathy and are also FDA approved for this indication.
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors may be a good choice for relief of diabetic neuropathy pain and have the additional benefit of relieving depression that is commonly associated with diabetic neuropathy
Additional studies are needed to assess long-term pain relief effectiveness.
“Nerve Damage (Diabetic Neuropathies) | NIDDK.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web 05 April 2017
Julie M. Waldfogel, Suzanne Amato Nesbit, Sydney M. Dy, Ritu Sharma, Allen Zhang, Lisa M. Wilson, Wendy L. Bennett, Hsin-Chieh Yeh, Yohalakshmi Chelladurai, Dorianne Feldman, Karen A. Robinson. “Pharmacotherapy for diabetic peripheral neuropathy pain and quality of life”. Neurology, 2017; 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003882 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000003882
Mark T. Lawrence, RPh, PharmD Candidate, University of Colorado-Denver, School of Pharmacy NTPD