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The University of Southampton

New study to find better treatment for a severe pain caused by shingles

Published: 10 September 2021
Hazel Everitt
Hazel Everitt

Researchers from the Primary Care Research Centre are involved in a £1.89 million NIHR HTA funded study aiming to find a better treatment for a severe pain caused by shingles.

Approximately 20% of people with Shingles (Herpes Zoster) develop post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This nerve pain can be difficult to treat and substantially impact people’s quality of life. One small trial has suggested that the drug amitriptyline taken soon after the rash’s onset might prevent PHN.

The ATHENA: AmiTritypline for the prevention of post-HErpetic NeuralgiA trial will assess low dose amitriptyline in an individually randomised, pragmatic two arm placebo-controlled superiority trial recruiting 846 patients from primary care.

Working with researchers at the universities of Bristol and Oxford, Professor Hazel Everitt will lead the trial’s recruitment across the Wessex region. 

Participants will be randomised to receive either Amitriptyline 10 mg (or a matched placebo tablet), increasing in 10 mg steps over two weeks as tolerated, to 30mg maximum for 70 days. All participants will also be prescribed an antiviral (acyclovir), as per current clinical practice.

A nested qualitative study will run alongside the trial, which will support and optimise the delivery of the trial; and aid interpretation and implementation of the quantitative findings.

Professor Everitt said: “We are excited to trial a treatment that could prevent the debilitating nerve pain, called Post-herpetic neuralgia, that can follow on from shingles. Amitriptyline can be prescribed at low cost so could rapidly be made widely available to help patients if found to be effective at preventing PHN.” 

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