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Few randomized controlled trials of oral pharmacotherapy have been performed in patients with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). The prevalence of CRPS is uncertain. Severe and advanced cases of CRPS are easily recognized but difficult to treat and constitute a minority compared with those who meet minimum criteria for the diagnosis. Unsettled disability or liability claims limit pharmaceutical industry interest in the disorder. Many studies are small or anecdotal, or are reported on only via posters at meetings. Targeting the process of bone resorption with bisphosphonate-type compounds such as calcitonin, clodronate, and alendronate has shown efficacy in three published randomized controlled trials. Intravenous phentolamine has been studied both alone and in comparison to intravenous regional blockade or stellate ganglion block. Steroids continue to be administered by multiple routes without large-scale placebo-controlled trials. Topical medications have received little attention. There has been considerable interest in the use of thalidomide and TNF-alpha blockers for CRPS, but no published controlled trials as of yet. Numerous other oral drugs, including muscle relaxants, benzodiazepines, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and opioids, have been reported on anecdotally. Some therapies have been the subject of early controlled studies, without subsequent follow-up (eg, ketanserin) or without an analogous well-tolerated and equally effective oral treatment (eg, intravenous ketamine). Gabapentin, tricyclic antidepressants, and opioids have been proven effective for chronic pain in disorders other than CRPS. Each has shown a broad enough spectrum of analgesic activity to be cautiously recommended for treatment of CRPS until adequate randomized controlled trials settle the issue. The relative benefit of oral medications compared with the widely used treatments of intensive physical therapy, nerve blocks, sympathectomy, intraspinally administered drugs, and neuromodulatory therapies (eg, spinal cord stimulation) remains uncertain. In summary, treatment of CRPS has received insufficient study and remains largely empirical.