A deeper look at pain variability and its relationship with the placebo response: Results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial of naproxen in osteoarthritis of the knee

Roi Treister, Liat Honigman, Oluwadolapo D. Lawal, Ryan K. Lanier, Nathaniel P. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous studies have shown a robust correlation between variability of clinical pain scores and responsiveness to placebo (but not active drug) in pain studies, but explanations for these relationships are lacking. We investigated this further by assessing relationship between the Focused Analgesia Selection Test (FAST), a psychophysical method that quantifies pain reporting variability in response to experimental stimuli, variability of daily clinical pain scores as captured using diary, and response to treatment in the context of a randomized controlled crossover trial of naproxen vs placebo in knee osteoarthritis. Evoked pain using the Staircase-Evoked Pain Procedure served as the primary efficacy endpoint. Variability of daily pain scores and the FAST were assessed at baseline. Fifty-five subjects completed the study and were included in the analyses. Our results indicated a statistically significant, moderate linear relationship between variability of clinical and experimental pain reports (r = -0.416, P = 0.004). Both correlated with the placebo response (r = 0.393, P = 0.004; r =-0.371, P = 0.009; respectively), but only the FAST predicted the treatment difference between naproxen and placebo, as demonstrated both in a regression model (P = 0.002, Beta = 0.456, t = 3.342) and in a receiver operating characteristic curve (0.721) analysis. Our results extend previous findings to include a correlation between experimental pain variability and the placebo response and suggest that experimental pain variability is a better predictor of patients who respond preferentially to drug over placebo. A theoretical model unifying these observations is proposed, and practical implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1522-1528
Number of pages7
JournalPain
Volume160
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 International Association for the Study of Pain.

Keywords

  • Pain assessment
  • Pain reporting variability
  • Placebo response
  • Randomized control trial
  • Within-subject variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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