Evaluating the Use of Low-Dose Naltrexone in Fibromyalgia Patients: Insights and Recommendations

Evaluating the Use of Low-Dose Naltrexone in Fibromyalgia Patients: Insights and Recommendations
Anthony Raphael
11 Dec 2023 

Exploring Low-Dose Naltrexone for Fibromyalgia
A recent study published in The Lancet Rheumatology has brought attention to the use of low-dose naltrexone in treating fibromyalgia. The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted by Karin Due Bruun, MD, of Odense University Hospital, Denmark, compared the effects of naltrexone 6 mg once daily versus placebo in women with fibromyalgia.

Adverse events were found to be infrequent and similar between the naltrexone group and the placebo group. However, the study had its limitations as it was only powered to detect a difference of 1.0 NRS points for pain intensity, which may have reduced its ability to identify small differences in pain intensity. Furthermore, the study may not be generalizable to other patient groups.

Low-Dose Naltrexone and Pain Relief
One of the key findings of the study was that the women with fibromyalgia who received low-dose naltrexone showed no significant improvement in pain at 12 weeks compared to those who received a placebo. Given these results, the authors recommended that off-label treatment for patients who have responded to low-dose naltrexone should continue, but caution against initiating it for low-dose naltrexone-naive patients with fibromyalgia until more research is conducted.

Potential Cognitive Benefits
Although low-dose naltrexone did not offer more pain relief than a placebo, it did show signs of providing a cognitive benefit. This discovery was significant as fibromyalgia is often associated with memory problems. A deeper investigation into this potential cognitive benefit could be a promising avenue for future research.

The Symptom Burden of Fibromyalgia
The study also shed light on the high symptom burden and lower health-related quality of life associated with fibromyalgia. This emphasizes the need for effective treatment strategies to improve the quality of life for these patients.

Call for Further Studies
The accompanying editorial to the study underscored the need for more adequately powered studies with distinctive inflammatory and autoantibody patient profiles before initiating low-dose naltrexone treatment for fibromyalgia. Such studies would enable a more comprehensive understanding of the potential benefits and risks associated with low-dose naltrexone treatment in different patient groups.

Overall, despite the limitations of the study, it has contributed valuable insights into the use of low-dose naltrexone in fibromyalgia treatment. It has also paved the way for further research to refine treatment strategies and improve patient outcomes.