How helpful are antioxidants for chronic pancreatitis pain?

The ‘ANTICiPaTE’ study shows that antioxidants are not helpful in the typical patient with chronic pancreatitis (Gastroenterol 2012: 143: 655-63).  While chronic pancreatitis is a rare problem for the pediatric population, I was drawn to this study because I had to see what the acronym stood for: ANTI-oxidant therapy for painful Chronic Pancreatitis Therapy Evaluation.

In brief, this study was a double-blind placebo-controlled single-center randomized trila of Antox version 1.2 in patients with painful chronic pancreatitis.  The ingredients of this antioxidant included selenium, ascorbic acid, d-α-tocopherol and multiple secondary ingredients.  Antioxidant levels were measured as well and did increase on study medication.

Results: after 6 months, pain scores were reduced by 1.97 from baseline in placebo group and 2.33 in the antioxidant group.  The -0.36 difference was within the 95% confidence interval (-1.44 to 0.72).  Quality of life measures were similar as well.

The discussion points out that the largest randomized study (Bhardwaj et al) found that antioxidants were effective in relieving pain in chronic pancreatitis.  So why the discrepancy? Possible reasons:

  • 1. Different populations: Bhardwaj study had a younger population: 31 years compared with 50 years in current study
  • 2. Different etiologies: The Bhardwaj study had only 31% with alcoholic etiology for chronic pancreatitits compared with 72% in current study
  • 3. Comorbid conditions:  The Bhardwaj study had 28% smokers compared with 80% in current study
  • 4. Antioxidant constituents differed
  • 5. Chance

Take-home message: While there are notable differences between this study and the Bhardwaj study, the present study is more indicative of typical chronic pancreatitis patients in the U.S. and indicates that antioxidants are not effective in this population. For the pediatric population, the Bhardwaj study has more applicability; however, the present study diminishes optimism that antioxidants will be effective.

What are the alternatives? Both surgical and endoscopic treatments can be considered for chronic pancreatitis, though neither has consistently been effective at reducing pain.

Additional references:

  • -Bhardwaj P, et al. Gastroenterology 2009; 136: 149-59.  Antioxidants for chronic pancreatitis pain.  antioxidant included 600mcg selenium, 0.54g ascorbic acid
  • -Gastroenterol 2011; 141: 1690.  Surgical Rx outperformed medical Rx. n=79.  Only 5% of surgical pts needed more Rx.  47% of endoscopic pts eventually needed surgery, 68% of endoscopic pts had repeated procedures.
  • -NASPGHAN Postgraduate Course 2011: Exercise helpful in reducing pain/depression, coffee/green tea may help. Surgery (eg Puestow) -most commonly for pain —>75-80% good outcome.  Rarely Frey procedure & investigational pancreatectomy (harvesting islet cells) -n=24 in Minnesota. May benefit from dual sphincterotomy -bilary/pancreatitic (33% improve) but increased complications (pancreatitis, cholangitis, restenosis)
  • -Am J Gastro 2010 105: 1884.  –cleaning out ducts w ERCP-1/3rdimprove (some worsen)
  • -Clinical Gastro & Hep 2011; 9: 541.  steatorrhea (w pancreatitis) typical adult dosing of pancreatic enzymes: 40,000-50,000 IU lipase/meal & 1/2 dose for snacks.
  • -Gastroenterol 2011; 141: 536.  Pregabalin reduces pain in chronic pancreatitis -randomized control trial.

Related blog entries:

Does pancreas divisum cause pancreatitis?

Recurrent pancreatitis and genetic underpinnings

Pain changes brain

4 thoughts on “How helpful are antioxidants for chronic pancreatitis pain?

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