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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Anesthesiology and Pain Management - Immunology - Neurological Disorders - Neuroscience - Pharmacology

The Effects of Pregabalin and the Glial Attenuator Minocycline on the Response to Intradermal Capsaicin in Patients with Unilateral Sciatica
Published: Thursday, June 07, 2012
Author: Nicole M. Sumracki et al.

by Nicole M. Sumracki, Mark R. Hutchinson, Melanie Gentgall, Nancy Briggs, Desmond B. Williams, Paul Rolan


Patients with unilateral sciatica have heightened responses to intradermal capsaicin compared to pain-free volunteers. No studies have investigated whether this pain model can screen for novel anti-neuropathic agents in patients with pre-existing neuropathic pain syndromes.


This study compared the effects of pregabalin (300 mg) and the tetracycline antibiotic and glial attenuator minocycline (400 mg) on capsaicin-induced spontaneous pain, flare, allodynia and hyperalgesia in patients with unilateral sciatica on both their affected and unaffected leg.


Eighteen patients with unilateral sciatica completed this randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, three-way cross-over study. Participants received a 10 µg dose of capsaicin into the middle section of their calf on both their affected and unaffected leg, separated by an interval of 75 min. Capsaicin-induced spontaneous pain, flare, allodynia and hyperalgesia were recorded pre-injection and at 5, 20, 40, 60 and 90 min post-injection. Minocycline tended to reduce pre-capsaicin injection values of hyperalgesia in the affected leg by 28% (95% CI 0% to 56%). The area under the effect time curves for capsaicin-induced spontaneous pain, flare, allodynia and hyperalgesia were not affected by either treatment compared to placebo. Significant limb differences were observed for flare (AUC) (-38% in affected leg, 95% CI for difference -19% to -52%). Both hand dominance and sex were significant covariates of response to capsaicin.


It cannot be concluded that minocycline is unsuitable for further evaluation as an anti-neuropathic pain drug as pregabalin, our positive control, failed to reduce capsaicin-induced neuropathic pain. However, the anti-hyperalgesic effect of minocycline observed pre-capsaicin injection is promising pilot information to support ongoing research into glial-mediated treatments for neuropathic pain. The differences in flare response between limbs may represent a useful biomarker to further investigate neuropathic pain. Inclusion of a positive control is imperative for the assessment of novel therapies for neuropathic pain.