Milnacipran is active in models of irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal visceral pain in rodents

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The role of antidepressants in the treatment of visceral pain has not been extensively examined. Milnacipran, a serotonin/noradrenalin reuptake inhibitor, has recently been approved in the USA for fibromyalgia, a chronic pathology characterized by diffused/chronic musculoskeletal pain, and a high prevalence of irritable bowel syndrome. Here, we determined its antinociceptive efficacy in two visceral pain tests in rodents: the acetic acid-induced writhing model in mice and the butyrate/colonic distension assay in rats, a model of irritable bowel syndrome. Acute milnacipran (5–40 mg/kg i.p.) significantly and dose-dependently reduced writhing (72.2 ± 3.2 versus 17.0 ± 4.1 writhes at 40 mg/kg). Following repeated administration (40 m/kg i.p. for 5 days), milnacipran preserved its ability to significantly reduce writhing (76 ± 8.3 versus 21.1 ± 6.7 writhes). Similarly, in the butyrate model, acute milnacipran (17.5 and 35 mg/kg, i.p.) significantly and dose-dependently increased cramps induction thresholds (from 45.7 ± 5.7 to 66.3 ± 4.8 and 75.6 ± 2.9 mm Hg, for 17.5 and 35 mg/kg, respectively) and reduced the number of cramps (from 3.0 ± 0.8 to 1.2 ± 0.8 and 0.3 ± 0.3 following inflation of an intra-rectal balloon. To summarise, milnacipran was efficacious in the writhing test, after acute and semi-chronic administration. This effect was confirmed after acute administration in a more specific model of colonic hypersensitivity induced by butyrate. This suggests that milnacipran has potential clinical application in the treatment of visceral pain, such as in irritable bowel syndrome, highly co-morbid with fibromyalgia.

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