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J Pain. 2005 Oct;6(10):644-9.

Topical amitriptyline and ketamine in neuropathic pain syndromes: an open-label study.

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  • 1Pain Management Unit, Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre and Department Psychiatry, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. mary.lynch@dal.ca


Twenty eight subjects with refractory, moderate to severe peripheral neuropathic pain participated in an open label prospective trial examining perceived analgesic effect, patient satisfaction, and safety of topical amitriptyline 2%/ketamine 1% cream. Outcome measures included an 11-point numerical rating scale for pain intensity (NRS-PI), a 5-point satisfaction scale, blood chemistry screen, drug and metabolite levels, urinalyses, electrocardiogram (ECG), and physical examination. Adverse events were monitored. Twenty-one subjects completed the trial. At 6 months, subjects reported an average long-term reduction in pain of 34% (standard deviation [SD] = 37%); 5 subjects (25%) achieved 50% or greater reduction in pain and 1 subject (5%) achieved 100% reduction in pain. At 12 months, the average reduction in pain was 37% (SD = 40%); 7 subjects (40%) achieved 50% or greater pain reduction. At the end of the study, 89% of subjects rated their satisfaction as 3/5 or greater and 2 subjects (10%) were pain free. Minimal adverse events were reported and there were no serious medication related adverse events. Blood levels revealed minimal systemic absorption. In conclusion, topical 2% amitriptyline/ 1% ketamine cream was associated with long-term reduction (6-12 months) in perceived pain, moderate to complete satisfaction, and was well tolerated in treatment of neuropathic pain. There was no significant systemic absorption of amitriptyline or ketamine.


This study demonstrates that topical 2% amitriptyline/1% ketamine, given over 6-12 months, is associated with long-term perceived analgesic effectiveness in treatment of neuropathic pain. Antidepressants and ketamine both produce multiple pharmacologic effects that may contribute to peripheral analgesia; such actions include block of peripheral N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, local anesthetic properties, and interactions with adenosine systems.

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