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      Low-Dose Dextromethorphan for the Treatment of Fibromyalgia Pain: Results from a Longitudinal, Single-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Trial

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          Fibromyalgia (FM) is a debilitating chronic pain condition with few treatment options. Central sensitization and neuroinflammation have been forwarded as models of FM pathophysiology, both of which indicate dextromethorphan (DXM) as a potential treatment. DXM is an NMDA-receptor antagonist and microglial modulator with anti-neuroinflammatory properties at low doses. It is available for clinical use but has not been tested as a treatment for FM at low dosages. This study evaluated the effectiveness of DXM in treating FM-associated symptoms.


          In a single-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 14 women meeting the 2010 American College of Rheumatology criteria for FM received a placebo for five weeks, followed by 20 mg DXM for ten weeks, while providing daily symptom reports on a 0–100 scale. Pain and physical activity were the primary and secondary outcomes, respectively. Daily symptom ratings during the last four weeks of placebo were contrasted with ratings during the last four weeks of the active treatment using generalized estimating equations (GEE).


          DXM was well tolerated, and treatment adherence was high. Baseline pain was reduced by at least 20% in six participants. Self-reported daily pain and physical activity in the entire cohort were not significantly different between the placebo and DXM conditions, and the primary hypotheses were not supported. Exploratory analyses using the entire placebo and DXM data showed that pain was significantly lower in the DXM condition than in the placebo condition ( b=−9.933, p=0.013).


          A strong clinical effect of DXM was not observed at the 20mg/day dosage.

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          Most cited references 69

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          Parenchymal microglia are the principal immune cells of the brain. Time-lapse two-photon imaging of GFP-labeled microglia demonstrates that the fine termini of microglial processes are highly dynamic in the intact mouse cortex. Upon traumatic brain injury, microglial processes rapidly and autonomously converge on the site of injury without cell body movement, establishing a potential barrier between the healthy and injured tissue. This rapid chemotactic response can be mimicked by local injection of ATP and can be inhibited by the ATP-hydrolyzing enzyme apyrase or by blockers of G protein-coupled purinergic receptors and connexin channels, which are highly expressed in astrocytes. The baseline motility of microglial processes is also reduced significantly in the presence of apyrase and connexin channel inhibitors. Thus, extracellular ATP regulates microglial branch dynamics in the intact brain, and its release from the damaged tissue and surrounding astrocytes mediates a rapid microglial response towards injury.
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            Cytokine-induced sickness behaviour: a neuroimmune response to activation of innate immunity.

            Sickness refers to a coordinated set of subjective, behavioural and physiological changes that develop in sick individuals during the course of an infection. These changes are due to the effects of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and other proinflammatory cytokines on brain cellular targets. Sickness behaviour is mediated by proinflammatory cytokines that are temporarily expressed in the brain during infection. These centrally produced cytokines are the same as those expressed by innate immune cells and they act on brain receptors that are identical to those characterized on immune cells. Primary afferent nerves represent the main communication pathway between peripheral and central cytokines. Proinflammatory cytokines modulate learning and memory processes. The expression and action of proinflammatory cytokines in the brain in response to peripheral cytokines are regulated by various molecular intermediates including anti-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-10 (IL-10) and the IL-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra), growth factors such as insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), hormones such as glucocorticoids and neuropeptides such as vasopressin and alpha-melanotropin.
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              Pain assessment: global use of the Brief Pain Inventory.

               C Cleeland,  K M Ryan (1994)
              Poorly controlled cancer pain is a significant public health problem throughout the world. There are many barriers that lead to undertreatment of cancer pain. One important barrier is inadequate measurement and assessment of pain. To address this problem, the Pain Research Group of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Symptom Evaluation in Cancer Care has developed the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI), a pain assessment tool for use with cancer patients. The BPI measures both the intensity of pain (sensory dimension) and interference of pain in the patient's life (reactive dimension). It also queries the patient about pain relief, pain quality, and patient perception of the cause of pain. This paper describes the development of the Brief Pain Inventory and the various applications to which the BPI is suited. The BPI is a powerful tool and, having demonstrated both reliability and validity across cultures and languages, is being adopted in many countries for clinical pain assessment, epidemiological studies, and in studies of the effectiveness of pain treatment.

                Author and article information

                J Pain Res
                J Pain Res
                Journal of Pain Research
                27 January 2021
                : 14
                : 189-200
                [1 ]Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham , Birmingham, AL, USA
                [2 ]Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham , Birmingham, AL, USA
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Jarred W Younger Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham , CH233, 1300 University Blvd, Birmingham, AL35233, USATel +1 (205) 975-5907Fax +1 (205) 934-6440 Email younger@uab.edu
                © 2021 Mueller et al.

                This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/). By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms ( https://www.dovepress.com/terms.php).

                Page count
                Figures: 2, Tables: 13, References: 69, Pages: 12
                Funded by: Psychology Department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham;
                The study was supported by the Psychology Department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
                Clinical Trial Report


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