A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine states that pregabalin, the common treatment prescribed for nerve pain in acute and chronic sciatica, is not effective in easing the pain symptoms. On the contrary, when compared to a placebo, it might cause unpleasant side effects, such as dizziness.
Sciatica is a condition which causes pain in the leg, together with lower back pain, numbness, tingling, or possible changes in the reflex of the leg. Doctors estimate that around 5 or 10 percent of those who experience lower back pain actually have sciatica.
Great number of prescriptions for pregabalin
With such a big number of people suffering from sciatica, doctors got excited about the prospect of using medicine against nerve pain to treat sciatica. Some of these drugs were also used to treat epilepsy, including pregabalin. Such drugs supposedly help in preventing the conduction of pain signals along the nerves.
After its approval in 2004, pregabalin became the most widely prescribed drug for nerve pain all over the world. After being listed for sciatica treatment in 2013, around 1.4 million prescriptions were written only during the first year. During the second year, the prescription number increased to 2.4 million. The drug became so popular mainly because there were no effective treatments to combat sciatica.
Pregabalin is not effective as sciatica treatment
Pregabalin can indeed work for nerve pain in general. However, scientists discovered that it had little to no effect in the treatment of sciatica, and it could even cause harmful side effects. Thus, researchers developed a study in which they looked at the effects of the drug on patients suffering from the crippling condition.
They compared the effects of pregabalin with placebo. The patients were assigned treatment with either pregabalin or placebo for eight weeks, and both the patient and the doctor who recommended the treatment were unaware of the nature of the pills each patient had to take.
After eight weeks, the patients showed no improvement in their pain, regardless of their treatment, and they registered the same results even after a year. Moreover, those treated with pregabalin had more severe side effects, more common being dizziness.
Thus, people who undergo a pregabalin treatment should talk to their doctor about their prescription. The study showed that the drug is not only ineffective in the treatment of the pain symptoms, but it can also cause dangerous side effects.
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