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Practical considerations and patient selection for intrathecal drug delivery in the management of chronic pain

Authors Saulino M, Kim P, Shaw E

Received 3 April 2014

Accepted for publication 23 May 2014

Published 10 November 2014 Volume 2014:7 Pages 627—638

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/JPR.S65441

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2


Michael Saulino,1,2 Philip S Kim,3,4 Erik Shaw5

1MossRehab, Elkins Park, PA, USA; 2Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, PA, USA; 3Helen F Graham Cancer Center, Christiana Care Health System, Newark, DE, USA; 4Center for Interventional Pain Spine, LLC., Bryn Mawr, PA, USA; 5Shepherd Pain Institute, Shepherd Center, Atlanta, GA, USA

Abstract: Chronic pain continues to pose substantial and growing challenges for patients, caregivers, health care professionals, and health care systems. By the time a patient with severe refractory pain sees a pain specialist for evaluation and management, that patient has likely tried and failed several nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic approaches to pain treatment. Although relegated to one of the interventions of “last resort”, intrathecal drug delivery can be useful for improving pain control, optimizing patient functionality, and minimizing the use of systemic pain medications in appropriately selected patients. Due to its clinical and logistical requirements, however, intrathecal drug delivery may fit poorly into the classic pain clinic/interventional model and may be perceived as a "critical mass" intervention that is feasible only for large practices that have specialized staff and appropriate office resources. Potentially, intrathecal drug delivery may be more readily adopted into larger practices that can commit the necessary staff and resources to support patients' needs through the trialing, initiation, monitoring, maintenance, and troubleshooting phases of this therapy. Currently, two agents – morphine and ziconotide – are approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration for long-term intrathecal delivery. The efficacy and safety profiles of morphine have been assessed in long-term, open-label, and retrospective studies of >400 patients with chronic cancer and noncancer pain types. The efficacy and safety profiles of ziconotide have been assessed in three double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of 457 patients, and safety has been assessed in 1,254 patients overall, with severe chronic cancer, noncancer, and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome pain types. Both agents are highlighted as first-line intrathecal therapy for the management of neuropathic or nociceptive pain. The purpose of this review is to discuss practical considerations for intrathecal drug delivery, delineate criteria for the identification and selection of candidates for intrathecal drug delivery, and consider which agent may be more appropriate for individual patients.

Keywords: review, patient selection, chronic pain, intrathecal, drug delivery

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