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New treatment for osteoarthritis pain?

Few pain relief options

Osteoarthritis causes severe pain but effective and safe treatment options for the condition are limited.

General practitioner Dr Ben Hudson is trialling a drug used for depression as a possible treatment for patients suffering chronic osteoarthritic pain.

He is working closely with Canterbury District Health Board orthopaedic and pain experts on the three-year Health Research Council-funded trial.

Anti-depressant trialled for pain

Antidepressant drug nortriptyline is being trialled to alleviate chronic knee pain caused by osteoarthritis.  Half of the study’s participants will get nortriptyline in addition to their usual medication, while the other half will get a placebo pill to take with their usual treatments.

Dr Hudson is a lecturer and researcher with the University of Otago, Christchurch’s Department of General Practice. He says nortriptyline has been used for several decades as an antidepressant but has also been found to be successful in treating some chronic pain conditions such as nerve damage, post-shingles neuralgia and persistent back pain.

“Because of a lack of alternatives, some doctors have been prescribing nortriptyline out of desperation to patients with chronic knee pain and it does seem effective. What we really need to know is whether this effect is real or due to a placebo effect.”

Hope for patients ineligible for surgery

Dr Hudson says if the trial is successful the drug could provide an excellent new pain relief option for patients ineligible for knee replacements and those in pain waiting for the surgery.

Interested in taking part or knowing more?

Contact Alison Parsons on