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Amitriptyline, a non-selective noradrenaline (NA) and 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT) reuptake inhibitor, has recently been demonstrated to produce a peripheral antinociceptive action in an inflammatory (formalin test) and a neuropathic pain model (spinal nerve ligation). In the present study, we determined whether desipramine, a selective NA reuptake inhibitor, and fluoxetine, a selective 5-HT reuptake inhibitor, could produce peripheral antinociceptive actions in these same tests. Effects on paw volume also were determined. In the 2.5% formalin test, desipramine and fluoxetine 10-300 nmol produced a dose-related reduction in phase 2 (16-60 min) flinching and biting/licking behaviours when coadministered with the formalin. Phase 1 flinch behaviours (0-12 min) were significantly reduced at the highest dose. These actions are peripherally mediated, as they were not seen when desipramine or fluoxetine (100, 300 nmol) were injected into the contralateral hindpaw. The peripheral action of desipramine and fluoxetine was not altered by coadministration of caffeine 1500 nmol. In the spinal nerve ligation model, desipramine 100 nmol, but not fluoxetine 100 nmol, produced a peripheral anti-hyperalgesic action in the hindpaw corresponding to the ligated side when thresholds were determined using a thermal paw stimulator. In paw volume experiments, desipramine, at doses which are maximally effective in behavioural tests, produced only a slight increase in paw volume, but fluoxetine (10-300 nmol) produced a robust and sustained dose-related increase in paw volume. Amitriptyline also produced minimal effects on paw volume. When coinjected with formalin, no agent significantly altered the degree of paw swelling produced by formalin. The increase in paw volume produced by fluoxetine was inhibited by ketanserin (5-HT2 receptor antagonist), mepyramine (histamine H1 receptor antagonist) and phentolamine (alpha-adrenergic receptor antagonist), but not by the other selective 5-HT receptor antagonists tested or caffeine. The pronounced peripheral pain alleviating actions in the absence of marked changes in paw volume produced by desipramine and amitriptyline, but not fluoxetine, in the formalin test and the spinal nerve ligation model suggest that these agents could be developed as cream or gel formulations to recruit a peripheral antinociceptive action in inflammatory and neuropathic pain states. Such a formulation might permit the attainment of higher and more efficacious concentrations in the region of the sensory nerve terminal, with limited systemic side effects.


J Sawynok, M J Esser, A R Reid. Peripheral antinociceptive actions of desipramine and fluoxetine in an inflammatory and neuropathic pain test in the rat. Pain. 1999 Aug;82(2):149-158

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PMID: 10467920

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