Introduction: Analgesic drugs are often prescribed to patients with non-specific low back pain (NSLBP). Recommendations for non-invasive pharmacological management of NSLBP from recent clinical practice guidelines were compared with each other and with the best available evidence on drug efficacy. Areas covered: Recommendations concerning opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), paracetamol, antidepressants, anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants from national primary care guidelines published within the last 3 years were included in this review. For each pharmacological treatment, the most recent systematic review was included as the best available evidence on drug efficacy and common adverse effects were summarized. Expert opinion: Although differences exist between guidelines, publications are universally moving away from pharmacotherapy due to the limited efficacy and the risk of adverse effects. NSAIDs have replaced paracetamol as the first choice analgesics for NSLBP in many guidelines. Opioids are generally considered to be a last resort, but opioid prescriptions have been increasing over recent years. Upcoming guideline updates should explicitly shift their focus from pain to function and from pharmacotherapy to non-pharmacological treatments; patient education is important to make sure NSLBP patients accept these changes. To improve the quality of NSLBP care, the evidence-practice gap should be closed through guideline implementation strategies.

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Keywords Non-specific low back pain, paracetamol, NSAIDs, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, opioids, guideline recommendations, pharmacotherapy
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Journal Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology
Schreijenberg, M, Koes, B.W, & Lin, C.W.C. (2019). Guideline recommendations on the pharmacological management of non-specific low back pain in primary care - is there a need to change?. Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology, 12(2), 145–157. doi:10.1080/17512433.2019.1565992