Scientists win funding to study new treatment for severe chronic pain

November 21, 2012

Scientists at the University of Liverpool are leading a £1.5 million project to study `immunoglobulin', a type of drug which has been shown to ease complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS).

The team, from the University of Liverpool and the Walton Centre, who have already conducted previous work with this drug type, will now trial `immunoglobulin' in a larger group of patients who have suffered from CRPS for between one and five years. The Medical Research Council (MRC)-funded study will start to recruit patients in March 2013 and results are expected to be published in 2016/17.

Dr Andres Goebel, from the Institute of Translational Medicine who is leading the study, said: "The immunoglobulin technology is an entirely new way of treating severe chronic pain. It may help people with CRPS whose pain was previously virtually untreatable.

"This is also a sign of recognition, by one of the most prestigious research funding bodies in the UK, of the value of developing novel ways of treating patients with chronic pain, which causes such a burden in the general population.

"Using immunoglobulin treatment at a low dose (0.5g/kg) has very few side effects. We hope that we will eventually be able to demonstrate that this treatment is good value for money, and that it can be introduced into NHS practice, although additional studies will be required to achieve that goal."

CRPS is an unexplained condition that usually develops after an injury or trauma to a limb, and continues after the injury has healed. CPRS I, formerly called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, can arise after any type of injury. CRPS II, previously called causalgia (a term coined in the American Civil War when it was first diagnosed), follows partial damage to a nerve.

In some cases the pain can be so severe that patients request amputation, only to find that the pain returns in the stump. CRPS pain can improve within one year after the injury, but if it is still unchanged after 12 months (longstanding CRPS), then it will often not improve at all. Longstanding CRPS affects about 1 in 2,000 people in the UK. More follows...
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The 'Low-dose intravenous Immunoglobulin in the treatment of complex regional Pain Syndrome' (LIPS) will be conducted in collaboration with the Clinical Trial Unit at King's College London (www.ctu.co.uk) at six sites throughout the UK.

The study is also supported by the Pain Relief Foundation, a charity dedicated to finding better treatments for chronic pain, and Biotest AG, a German company who will supply the immunoglobulin drug free of charge.

Notes to editors:

1. The Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation programme is funded by the MRC and NIHR and managed by the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC). The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the MRC, NHS, NIHR or the Department of Health.

2. The University of Liverpool is one of the UK's leading research institutions with an annual turnover of £410 million, including £150 million for research. Liverpool is ranked in the top 1% of higher education institutions worldwide and is a member of the Russell Group. Visit www.liv.ac.uk

For further information:

Kate Mizen, Head of Public Relations
Tel: 0151 794 2247, Mobile: 07970 247391, E-mail: kate.mizen@liv.ac.uk

Samantha Martin, Senior Press Officer
Tel: 0151 794 2248, Mobile: 07970 247836, E-mail: samantha.martin@liv.ac.uk

Sarah Stamper, Press and Marketing Officer
Tel: 0151 794 3044, Mobile: 07970 247396, E-mail: sarah.stamper@liv.ac.uk

University of Liverpool

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