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Phytomedicine. 2005 Nov;12(10):707-14.

Efficacy of a comfrey root extract ointment in comparison to a diclofenac gel in the treatment of ankle distortions: results of an observer-blind, randomized, multicenter study.

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Merck Selbstmedikation GmbH, Roesslerstr. 96, D-64293 Darmstadt, Germany.


In the treatment of minor blunt injuries several topical drugs are known to have anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. They represent, however, two fundamentally different major pharmacological therapy approaches: the "chemical-synthetical" and the "phytotherapeutical" approach. The main objective of this trial (CODEC_2004) was to compare the efficacy and tolerability of an ointment of Comfrey extract (Extr. Rad. Symphyti) with that of a Diclofenac gel in the treatment of acute unilateral ankle sprain (distortion). In a single-blind, controlled, randomized, parallel-group, multicenter and confirmatory clinical trial outpatients with acute unilateral ankle sprains (n=164, mean age 29.0 years, 47.6% female) received either a 6 cm long ointment layer of Kytta-Salbe f (Comfrey extract) (n=82) or of Diclofenac gel containing 1.16 g of diclofenac diethylamine salt (n=82) for 7 +/- 1 days, four times a day. Primary variable was the area-under-the-curve (AUC) of the pain reaction to pressure on the injured area measured by a calibrated caliper (tonometer). Secondary variables were the circumference of the joint (swelling; figure-of-eight method), the individual spontaneous pain sensation at rest and at movement according to a Visual Analogue Scale (VAS), the judgment of impaired movements of the injured joint by the method of "neutral-zero", consumption of rescue medication (paracetamol), as well as the global efficacy evaluation and the global assessment of tolerability (both by physician and patient, 4 ranks). In this study the primary variable was also to be validated prospectively. It was confirmatorily shown that Comfrey extract is non-inferior to diclofenac. The 95% confidence interval for the AUC (Comfrey extract minus Diclofenac gel) was 19.01-103.09h*N/cm2 and was completely above the margin of non-inferiority. Moreover, the results of the primary and secondary variables indicate that Comfrey extract may be superior to Diclofenac gel.

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