March 4, 2019 – Pain Creams


Anchor lead: How well do prescription pain creams work? Elizabeth Tracey reports

If you have arthritis or an injury to a joint or muscle, applying a pain cream may seem like it would help, and those containing prescription pain relievers would be even better, right? Not so fast, research by Steven Cohen, a pain expert at Johns Hopkins, and colleagues concludes.

Cohen: We classified people based on the type of their pain. So that’s suballocation. And then we randomized them in a one to one ratio. They either got the real creams or they got the placebo creams. We taught them how to apply the creams and they kept pain diaries which they had to fill out, average, worse, pain scores twice a day. And we found that there was no significant differences between the people who got the real creams and the people who got the placebo creams.  :25

Cohen says these specially compounded prescription pain creams often contain things like lidocaine or ketamine, and may cost in the thousands of dollars. People often prefer to use them rather than oral medicines because they don’t have so many side effects. But they also are no more effective than the pain creams that can be bought over the counter, Cohen concludes. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.