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BACKGROUND: Drugs are prescribed for chronic low back pain without knowing in advance whether a patient will respond to them or not. Quantitative sensory tests (QST) can discriminate patients according to sensory phenotype, possibly reflecting underlying mechanisms of pain processing. QST may therefore be a screening tool to identify potential responders to a certain drug. The aim of this study was to investigate whether QST can predict analgesic effects of oxycodone, imipramine and clobazam in chronic low back pain. METHODS: Oxycodone 15 mg (n = 50), imipramine 75 mg (n = 50) and clobazam 20 mg (n = 49) were compared to active placebo tolterodine 1 mg in a randomized, double-blinded, crossover fashion. Electrical, pressure and thermal QST were performed at baseline and after 1 and 2 h. Pain intensity was assessed on a 0-10 numeric rating scale every 30 min for up to 2 h. The ability of baseline QST to predict pain reduction after 2 h was analysed using linear mixed models. Genetic variants of drug-metabolizing enzymes and genes affecting pain sensitivity were examined as covariables. RESULTS: No predictor of analgesic effect was found for oxycodone and clobazam. Thermal QST was associated with analgesic effect of imipramine: patients more sensitive to heat or cold were more likely to experience an effect of imipramine. Pharmacogenetic variants and pain-related candidate genes were not associated with drug efficacy. CONCLUSIONS: Thermal QST have the potential to predict imipramine effect in chronic low back pain. Oxycodone and clobazam effects could not be predicted by any of the selected QST or genetic variants. SIGNIFICANCE: Predicting drug efficacy in chronic low back pain remains difficult. There is some evidence that patients more sensitive to heat and cold pain respond better to imipramine.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Pain

Publication Date





973 - 988


Adult, Aged, Analgesics, Clobazam, Cross-Over Studies, Double-Blind Method, Electric Stimulation, Female, Humans, Imipramine, Low Back Pain, Male, Middle Aged, Oxycodone, Pain Measurement, Pain Threshold, Pressure