Osteoarthritis: RCT finds duloxetine relieves pain

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  • In a Chinese randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate pain relief in patients with osteoarthritis (OA), the depression medication duloxetine (Cymbalta), a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor, provided better pain relief than placebo.

Why this matters

  • More treatment options for OA pain are needed.

Study design

  • A 13-wk randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded, multicenter trial to evaluate safety and effectiveness of duloxetine 60 mg for chronic OA pain.
  • Knee or hip OA was diagnosed with American College of Rheumatology clinical and radiographic criteria.
  • Primary outcome was pain severity by Brief Pain Inventory 24-h Average Pain score.
  • At baseline, there were 205 patients in the treatment group and 202 in placebo group.
  • Funding: Eli Lilly and Company.

Key results

  • The treatment group reported less pain; the least-squares mean change from baseline to endpoint was −2.23 for duloxetine and −1.73 for placebo (P=.001).
  • Adverse events resulted in 9.0% discontinuing duloxetine treatment, compared with 4.5% discontinuation in the control group (P=.109).


  • Short study duration.