Lyrica (pregabalin) is no better for treating sciatica than a placebo, and has far more side effects.
A new study examined 209 patients with sciatica, which is pain that radiates down the sciatic nerve, resulting in back and leg pain. They were randomized to receive either Lyrica or a placebo for up to 8 weeks. Those on Lyrica started on a low dose that was adjusted over time to a higher dose.
Participants were asked to rate their leg pain at the outset and then at the end of the study. The average pain score at 8 weeks was 3.1 in the placebo group compared to 3.7 in the Lyrica group, researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. Ten was considered severe pain.
However, those on Lyrica reported many more side effects. For example, 40% of those on the active drug experienced dizziness.
Use of neuropathic pain medicines, such as Lyrica for back pain and sciatica, has increased by 535% over the past 10 years, according to Christine Lin, PhD, a senior research fellow at Australia’s George Institute of Global Health, and one of the study’s authors.
Lyrica is approved for nerve pain related to diabetes or shingles, fibromyalgia, and spinal cord injury nerve pain. It is actually not indicated for sciatica, but is widely prescribed off-label for that purpose.
Jonathan Block is MedShadow’s content editor. He has previously worked for Psychiatry Advisor, Modern Healthcare, Health Reform Week and The Pink Sheet.