Imperial College London

New drug treatment for chronic nerve pain shows promise in first trial

Nerve damage

A new drug has been shown to reduce chronic pain caused by nerve injury in a trial conducted by clinician scientists from Imperial College London and GlaxoSmithKline

 A new drug has been shown to reduce chronic pain caused by nerve injury in a trial conducted by clinician scientists from Imperial College London and GlaxoSmithKline, published in the European Journal of Pain on 14 May.

Chronic neuropathic pain is thought to affect around three in 100 people in the UK. It can result from injury or compression of a nerve e.g. sciatica, or from diseases that affect nerves  such as diabetes and (shingles).  Various treatments are currently used but they are only partially effective and only help a minority of patients. They also have a number of common side effects, which restricts their use.

Dilmapimod is a novel class of cytokine-suppressive anti-inflammatory drug (CSAID).  In a randomised double-blind trial of 50 patients with chronic neuropathic pain, researchers compared the effects on pain relief of dilmapimod with a placebo. Each patient received either dilmapimod or a placebo for two weeks, then received the other treatment in a second period of two weeks. The patients rated the pain that they felt each day on an 11-point scale.

The results showed a significant reduction in the patients’ pain scores in the second week of treatment with dilmapimod compared with the placebo. Furthermore, the study found no side effects associated with the new drug.

Professor Praveen Anand, Principal Investigator from the Centre for Neuroscience  at Imperial College London, said: “There is an urgent need for effective treatments for chronic neuropathic pain which are not being met by drugs available now. We have shown that dilmapimod significantly reduced chronic pain following nerve injury and was well tolerated. This is the first demonstration that this novel CSAID class of drugs has the potential to be developed as a treatment for clinical neuropathic pain.

 “This finding offers new hope for chronic nerve pain sufferers. The study is also a great example of successful collaboration between academia and industry in translating new mechanisms and drug targets into advanced medicines.”

The team are now conducting larger trials to test the new drug further.

Journal reference: P. Anand et al. Clinical trial of the p38 MAP kinase inhibitor dilmapimod in neuropathic pain following nerve injury. Published online 24 May 2011.

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