Antidepressants may be effective at alleviating physical, as well as emotional, pain.
New research has found drugs used to treat depression can also ease painful conditions such as osteoarthritis and may result in fewer side effects than those caused by anti-inflammatories and narcotic painkillers.
The study, published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, was based on analysis of clinical trials of the antidepressant duloxetine, which gained U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 2010 for dual use with chronic musculoskeletal pain, including osteoarthritis.
"It is not uncommon to treat osteoarthritis with a combination of drugs that work in different ways," said lead researcher Dr. Leslie Citrome, with the New York Medical College. "Our review supports this approach and confirms that antidepressants are not just for depression and can play a key role in relieving this painful condition."
Citrome and colleagues examined studies exploring the effects of duloxetine used on its own or in combination with anti-inflammatory drugs.
When duloxetine was compared with a placebo tablet with no active ingredients, two FDA approval studies found it more effective than other medications. When the side effects of other drugs were taken into account, the analysis showed duloxetine had a number of advantages over anti-inflammatory and narcotic drugs, which can lead to gastrointestinal bleeding and constipation.
In addition, a 10-week study of 524 patients with osteoarthritis who took a combination of duloxetine and anti-inflammatory drugs reported greater pain reductions than the control group who took only traditional painkillers.