Naltrexone 6 mg once daily versus placebo in women with fibromyalgia: a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Karin Due Bruun, Robin Christensen, Kirstine Amris, Henrik Bjarke Vaegter, Morten Rune Blichfeldt-Eckhardt, Lars Bye-Møller, Anders Holsgaard-Larsen, Palle Toft

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Low-dose naltrexone is used to treat fibromyalgia despite minimal evidence for its efficacy. This trial aimed to investigate whether 12-week treatment with 6 mg low-dose naltrexone was superior to placebo for reducing pain in women with fibromyalgia.

METHODS: We did a single-centre, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial in Denmark. We enrolled women aged 18-64 years who were diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Participants were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive low-dose naltrexone (6 mg) or an identical-appearing placebo, using a computerised algorithm with no stratifications applied. Participants, investigators, outcome assessors, and statistical analysts were all masked to treatment allocation. The primary outcome was change in pain intensity on an 11-point numeric rating scale from baseline to week 12, in the intention-to-treat population. Safety was assessed in participants in the intention-to-treat population who received at least one dose of their allocated intervention. This trial was registered with ClincalTrials.gov (NCT04270877) and EudraCT (2019-000702-30).

FINDINGS: We screened 158 participants for eligibility from Jan 6, 2021, to Dec 27, 2022, and 99 patients were randomly assigned to low-dose naltrexone (n=49) or placebo (n=50). The mean age was 50·6 years (SD 8·8), one (1%) of 99 participants was Arctic Asian and 98 (99%) were White. No participants were lost to follow-up. The mean change in pain intensity was -1·3 points (95% CI -1·7 to -0·8) in the low-dose naltrexone group and -0·9 (-1·4 to -0·5) in the placebo group, corresponding to a between-group difference of -0·34 (-0·95 to 0·27; p=0·27, Cohen's d 0·23). Discontinuations due to adverse events were four (8%) of 49 in the low-dose naltrexone group and three (6%) of 50 in the placebo group. 41 (84%) of 49 patients in the low-dose naltrexone group had an adverse event versus 43 (86%) of 50 in the placebo group. One serious adverse event occurred in the placebo group and no deaths occurred.

INTERPRETATION: This study did not show that treatment with low-dose naltrexone was superior to placebo in relieving pain. Our results indicate that low-dose naltrexone might improve memory problems associated with fibromyalgia, and we suggest that future trials investigate this further.

FUNDING: The Danish Rheumatism Association, Odense University Hospital, Danielsen's Foundation, and the Oak Foundation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Lancet Rheumatology
Volume6
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)e31-e39
ISSN2665-9913
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024

Keywords

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Fibromyalgia/drug therapy
  • Naltrexone/adverse effects
  • Pain
  • Rheumatic Diseases
  • Double-Blind Method

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