Critical Review| Volume 20, ISSUE 1, P1-15, January 2019

Combination Drug Therapy for the Management of Low Back Pain and Sciatica: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

      Highlight points

      • Combining medicines may have advantages compared with single-ingredient medicines.
      • Of the 27 eligible studies, most combinations (21 of 23) were of single trials.
      • Most combinations had very low or low quality of evidence.
      • The evidence is limited for combination drug therapy for back pain or sciatica.


      Combining medicines may give greater pain relief and/or improved tolerability. We conducted a systematic review to investigate the effects of combination drug therapy in patients with low back pain and/or sciatica on pain, disability, and adverse events. Databases and trial registers were searched from inception to July 27, 2017, for randomized trials of (sub)acute or chronic back pain or sciatica participants that were administered combination drug therapy compared with monotherapy or placebo. Of the 27 studies included, most combinations (21 of 23) consisted of single trials. Most combinations had no or small effect on pain and disability. A clinically important difference was found in one combination, buprenorphine plus pregabalin versus buprenorphine for chronic back pain at immediate (mean difference = –23.30; 95% confidence interval = –27.68 to –18.92) and short (mean difference = –27.60; 95% confidence interval = –31.70 to –23.50) terms; however, the quality of evidence was low. There was no statistically significant increased risk of serious adverse events. When the risk of adverse events was statistically significant, it favored monotherapy or placebo. There is no clear evidence to support any combination drug therapy for the management of low back pain and sciatica due to the limited number of studies and overall low quality of evidence.
      Perspective: Combining medicines may give greater pain relief and/or improved tolerability compared with single-ingredient medicines. However, the lack of studies and overall low quality of evidence limit the recommendation of combination drug therapy for the management of low back pain and sciatica.

      Key words

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