Study Finds Placebo as Effective as Compounded Pain Relief Creams
February 5, 2019 – A study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine has found that compounded topical pain relief creams offer no more benefit to patients than placebo. Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medicine and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center conducted the study under a mandate from the United States Congress.
Patients who participated in the study were divided into a treatment group and a control group, with the control group given placebos. Patients in the treatment group received topical pain relief creams compounded to treat one of three different categories of pain: neuropathic, nociceptive, and mixed. Both the treatment and control groups demonstrated an improvement in pain scores after one month. However, there was no significant difference in the scores for the treatment group compared to the scores from the control group.
According to researchers, these results suggest that routine prescribing and use of compounded pain relief creams should be avoided due to the higher cost when compared to non-compounded FDA-approved pain relief creams. However, researchers advise that the study’s limitations should be taken into consideration. The study did not examine the effectiveness of particular compounded creams for treating specific diagnoses. It also excluded capsaicin, a common active ingredient in pain relief creams, because the distinctive smell and application requirements would have made it clear to patients they were receiving an active compounded pain relief cream and not a placebo.