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BACKGROUND: Diabetic peripheral neuropathic pain (DPNP) is common and often distressing. Most guidelines recommend amitriptyline, duloxetine, pregabalin, or gabapentin as initial analgesic treatment for DPNP, but there is little comparative evidence on which one is best or whether they should be combined. We aimed to assess the efficacy and tolerability of different combinations of first-line drugs for treatment of DPNP. METHODS: OPTION-DM was a multicentre, randomised, double-blind, crossover trial in patients with DPNP with mean daily pain numerical rating scale (NRS) of 4 or higher (scale is 0-10) from 13 UK centres. Participants were randomly assigned (1:1:1:1:1:1), with a predetermined randomisation schedule stratified by site using permuted blocks of size six or 12, to receive one of six ordered sequences of the three treatment pathways: amitriptyline supplemented with pregabalin (A-P), pregabalin supplemented with amitriptyline (P-A), and duloxetine supplemented with pregabalin (D-P), each pathway lasting 16 weeks. Monotherapy was given for 6 weeks and was supplemented with the combination medication if there was suboptimal pain relief (NRS >3), reflecting current clinical practice. Both treatments were titrated towards maximum tolerated dose (75 mg per day for amitriptyline, 120 mg per day for duloxetine, and 600 mg per day for pregabalin). The primary outcome was the difference in 7-day average daily pain during the final week of each pathway. This trial is registered with ISRCTN, ISRCTN17545443. FINDINGS: Between Nov 14, 2017, and July 29, 2019, 252 patients were screened, 140 patients were randomly assigned, and 130 started a treatment pathway (with 84 completing at least two pathways) and were analysed for the primary outcome. The 7-day average NRS scores at week 16 decreased from a mean 6·6 (SD 1·5) at baseline to 3·3 (1·8) at week 16 in all three pathways. The mean difference was -0·1 (98·3% CI -0·5 to 0·3) for D-P versus A-P, -0·1 (-0·5 to 0·3) for P-A versus A-P, and 0·0 (-0·4 to 0·4) for P-A versus D-P, and thus not significant. Mean NRS reduction in patients on combination therapy was greater than in those who remained on monotherapy (1·0 [SD 1·3] vs 0·2 [1·5]). Adverse events were predictable for the monotherapies: we observed a significant increase in dizziness in the P-A pathway, nausea in the D-P pathway, and dry mouth in the A-P pathway. INTERPRETATION: To our knowledge, this was the largest and longest ever, head-to-head, crossover neuropathic pain trial. We showed that all three treatment pathways and monotherapies had similar analgesic efficacy. Combination treatment was well tolerated and led to improved pain relief in patients with suboptimal pain control with a monotherapy. FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Technology Assessment programme.

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