Gabapentin Seem to Offer Little Benefit, Substantial Risks in Low Back Pain

August 16, 2017

By Amy Orciari Herman

Edited by David G. Fairchild, MD, MPH, and Lorenzo Di Francesco, MD, FACP, FHM

Gabapentinoids, increasingly used for chronic low back pain, offer little benefit and carry substantial risks in this setting, finds a systematic review in PLOS Medicine.

Researchers examined eight randomized trials in which gabapentin or pregabalin was compared with active or inactive treatments in adults with low back pain lasting at least 3 months. Doses ranged from 300–3600 mg/day for gabapentin and 100–600 mg/day for pregabalin. Among the findings:

  • Gabapentin was associated with a small reduction in pain compared with placebo (very-low-quality evidence).

  • Pregabalin was less effective than comparator treatments (e.g., amitriptyline, celecoxib) in relieving pain (very-low-quality evidence).

  • Gabapentin was associated with increased risks for dizziness (number needed to harm, 7), fatigue (NNH, 8), mental difficulties (6), and visual disturbances (6).

  • Pregabalin was associated with elevated risk for dizziness (NNH, 11).

The researchers conclude, “Given the lack of efficacy, risks, and costs associated, the use of gabapentinoids for [low back pain] merits caution.”