London, Sep 25 : A drug -- gabapentin -- that is regularly used to treat chronic pelvic pain in women has been found to be no more effective than a placebo, according to a study published in the journal The Lancet.
Chronic pelvic pain affects up to 24 per cent of women worldwide to varying degrees.
Gabapentin is used to manage many forms of chronic pain.
In two separate surveys, 74 per cent of general physicians and 92 per cent of gynaecologists said that they would consider prescribing the drug for chronic pelvic pain.
"We have been prescribing this drug for many years with little evidence of its effectiveness," said study author Andrew Horne from the University of Edinburgh in the UK.
Researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Birmingham, Oxford and Nottingham in the UK tested the drug's effectiveness in treating chronic pelvic pain through a randomised clinical trial involving 306 women with the condition and no known underlying cause.
As part of the study, 153 women received gabapentin and 153 received placebo for 16 weeks.
Neither group nor the prescribing clinicians knew what they were receiving.
The women were asked to rate their average pain and worst pain, using a scale from zero to ten, on a weekly basis.
The scores were then averaged for the drug and placebo groups.
The team found that there was very little difference between the reported pain in both groups.
However, the group that received gabapentin reported experiencing more side effects - including dizziness, drowsiness and changes of mood - than the placebo group.
The researchers said that gabapentin should no longer be considered in the treatment of chronic pelvic pain where no cause has been identified.
According to the team, other avenues of treatment should be explored, such as different drugs, physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
"As a result of our study, we can confidently conclude that gabapentin is not effective for chronic pelvic pain in women where no cause has been identified," Horne said.
"More research is needed to explore if other therapies can help instead," Horne noted.