Kingston, ON – Queen’s University has been selected as the only Canadian site to test a new antidepressant drug approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) for its potential to alleviate pain in two common bladder conditions that have no known cause and no effective therapy.
Funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the research will be carried out at 10 medical centres in the United States and Canada. Dr. Curtis Nickel, professor of Urology at Queen’s and urologist at Kingston General Hospital, heads the Canadian study.
The researchers are recruiting adults newly diagnosed with either painful bladder syndrome (PBS) or interstitial cystitis (IC), to learn if the oral drug amitriptyline will reduce the pain and frequent urination associated with these conditions. An estimated 10 million people worldwide suffer from PBS and IC.
Although amitriptyline is primarily used for depression, the way it works makes it useful for treating the pain of fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and other chronic pain syndromes, Dr. Nickel explains. “Prior small studies have suggested the drug may be a wise choice for this syndrome as well, because it blocks nerve signals that trigger pain and may also decrease muscle spasms in the bladder, helping to cut both pain and frequent urination.”
The researchers believe that 25 to 75 milligrams of amitriptyline a day may begin relieving IC pain within a week. In contrast, doses in the range of 150 to 300 milligrams are generally used to treat depression.
The 10 centres where testing will take place make up the Interstitial Cystitis Clinical Research Network, sponsored by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) at the NIH, which coordinates all government health care research in the United States.
In 2003, Dr. Nickel and his Kingston Genito-urinary Research Group were awarded an unprecedented four research grants from the NIH, totaling almost $8 million. These studies are now examining alternative, complementary and novel therapies for prostate and bladder disease, in both laboratory research and clinical trials involving more than 3,000 men and women throughout southern Ontario.
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