Volunteers Needed to Test Treatment for Post-Shingles Pain
St. Louis, Nov. 16, 2004 — Pain management researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis are recruiting people who have had shingles to test the effectiveness of an investigational drug designed to reduce the severe pain that can last for months or years after a bout with the disorder.
Shingles is an inflammation of nerves that can affect any part of the body, commonly in the chest, face, arms or legs. Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox. Shingles strikes an estimated 800,000 people each year in the United States. About 20-30 percent of people over 60 years of age get shingles, and half of those who develop the painful rash continue to have pain, called post-herpetic neuralgia, after the rash disappears.
“The pain that lingers after the rash goes away is thought to occur as a result of alterations in the function of both the peripheral and central nervous systems,” says anesthesiologist Rahul Rastogi, M.D., who is principal investigator of the St. Louis study and sees patients at the Pain Management Center at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “Once those changes occur, people may experience pain even when there is no painful stimulus or have pain that is evoked by exposure to a stimulus that normally would not cause a pain response.”
The investigators hope to counter those changes in pain sensation by treating post-herpetic neuralgia patients with an investigational medication. Those who volunteer for the study will be eligible to receive the investigational drug REN-1654, which belongs to a class of chemical compounds known as benzamides — compounds that include antipsychotics and antidepressants. REN-1654 is thought to have promise as a treatment for post-herpetic neuralgia because it has been shown to interfere with communication between nerve cell receptors that may carry pain messages.
To be eligible for the study, volunteers must be age 55 or older and have a history of shingles, followed by persistent pain for two to 18 months after the onset of the rash. People with cataracts, glaucoma and a history of herpes infection in the eye are not eligible.
Those who qualify will be randomly assigned to receive a daily dose of either the study medication or an inactive placebo for three to six weeks.
Participants will receive free study-related physical exams, laboratory tests and investigational study medication. They will be compensated for time and travel. Participation in the study is expected to last for about 10 weeks and will involve five visits to the Pain Management Center, located in the Center for Advanced Medicine at 4921 Parkview Place.
For more information, call study coordinator Patty Suntrup at (314) 747-1709.
Washington University School of Medicine’s full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked second in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children's hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare