Publication date: Sep 21, 2023
The COVID-19 pandemic affected millions of people and has become a dominant etiology of olfactory dysfunction (OD). No interventions with definitive clinical utility exist. Gabapentin represents a potential therapy for COVID-19-induced OD. To evaluate the efficacy of oral gabapentin on olfactory function and olfaction-related quality of life in patients with COVID-19-induced OD. This pilot double-blinded, placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial (RCT) was conducted at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis from January 7, 2022, to February 3, 2023. Adults with at least 3 months of OD after COVID-19 infection were eligible for inclusion. Participants with a history of other causes of OD or contraindications to gabapentin were excluded. Patients were randomized 1:1 to oral gabapentin or placebo. All patients underwent titration to a maximum tolerable dose, which was maintained during an 8-week fixed-dose (FD) phase then tapered off. Participants were monitored for 4 weeks following cessation of study medication. Outcomes were assessed following the 8-week FD phase and 4 weeks after taper completion. The primary outcome measure was the response rate determined by subjective improvement in OD on the Clinical Global Impression of Improvement (CGI-I) after the FD phase. Other subjective and objective measures of olfactory function were also assessed as secondary outcome measures. Sixty-eight participants were enrolled (34 randomized to each arm), a total of 44 participants completed the FD period and 20 (45. 4%) reported response to treatment with at least slight improvement in olfaction from baseline. Of those randomized, 51 (75%) were women and 56 were White (82%) with a mean (SD) age of 43 (13. 5) years. Baseline demographic features including age, sex, and race and ethnicity were not significantly different between the groups. Of the 18 participants in the gabapentin group, 8 (44%) were responders and of the 26 participants in the placebo group, 12 (46%) reported response to treatment (percent difference, 1. 7%; 95% CI, -31. 6% to 28. 2%). Mixed-model analysis of all secondary outcome measures demonstrated no clinically meaningful or statistically significant difference between the gabapentin and placebo groups throughout the trial. There were no serious adverse events. In this randomized clinical trial, gabapentin was not associated with statistically significant or clinically meaningful benefit over placebo and likely is not an efficacious therapy for COVID-19-induced OD. ClinicalTrials. gov Identifier: NCT05184192.
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