Researchers at UAB are exploring a non-narcotic drug to treat nerve pain that may reduce a patient’s need for highly addictive, narcotic painkillers. In previous studies in Europe, Lyrica, an anti-seizure medication, reduced requests for painkillers by 50 percent in patients who have undergone elective surgery. UAB researchers hope to confirm these findings in a population of acute trauma patients, such as those who have experienced a car accident or gunshot wound.
“Nerves get injured in a trauma, just as bones and muscles do,” said David Volgas, M.D., assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at UAB and primary investigator on this study. “The goal is to calm the nerves down, which helps reduce pain. We think Lyrica can do this and may reduce the amount of narcotic painkillers these patients request.”Researchers plan to track the narcotic drug usage of 100 patients. Lyrica will be given to patients on a scheduled basis, while the narcotics will only be available upon request.”Narcotic usage is associated with many problems, such as respiratory depression, sedation and interference with concentration, as well as the widely-publicized potential for addiction. By reducing the need for narcotics, many of these side effects can be reduced or avoided,” Volgas said. “We hope to enable patients to resume normal activities faster and enjoy freedom from the anxiety that many patients experience when taking narcotics.”The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) estimates that more than 4.7 million Americans are addicted to prescription, narcotic painkillers. Many times, the addiction is onset by a prescription to treat chronic pain. Many patients continue taking painkillers to avoid withdrawal symptoms after the pain goes away.(Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham : June 2007)