Dr. Jana Sawynok develops skin cream for neuropathic pain
Dr. Jana Sawynok is making progress in her efforts to bring relief to people who suffer from neuropathic pain. Since traditional oral painkillers help only a portion of people who suffer from neuropathic pain, Dr. Sawynok, head of the Department of Pharmacology at Dalhousie Medical School, has developed an analgesic skin cream to treat this kind of pain.
Caused by nerve injury resulting from trauma, infection, or disease such as diabetes, chronic neuropathic pain can be debilitating and interfere with all aspects of a person’s life. Shingles, or post-herpetic neuralgia, is a common form of neuropathic pain which can be excruciating.
“Neuropathic pain involves the peripheral nerves, which are located under the skin,” notes Dr. Sawynok. “Topical treatments targeting peripheral nerve endings in the affected area can relieve the pain without the system-wide side effects of oral drugs.”
Dr. Sawynok’s analgesic skin cream contains an antidepressant drug and another agent which work together to soothe the peripheral nerves. It has recently been tested in a U.S.-based clinical trial, comparing its effectiveness to gabapentin in treating shingles (or post-herpetic neuralgia) pain. “The topical analgesic was more effective than placebo and as effective as the oral drug, with fewer side effects,” she says. “Such results are very promising, and indicate that local drug application may be useful for treatment of this condition.”
Another clinical trial has recently been completed to test how well the cream relieves neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapeutic agents. “We will know the results of this trial by the end of 2010,” Dr. Sawynok says.