Allopurinol for pain relief: More than just crystal clearance?

Mark Connor*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/opinionpeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Gout and pain are synonymous, and a study in this issue of the BJP reports a novel anti-nociceptive effect of allopurinol, the drug most commonly used to treat gout. Allopurinol works by inhibiting xanthine oxidase (XO), the enzyme responsible for converting hypoxanthine to uric acid which is deposited as crystals in the joints of gout sufferers. Hypoxanthine is a metabolite of, and a possible precursor to, adenosine. Schmidt et al., find that acute inhibition of XO with allopurinol produces a modest adenosine A 1 receptor-mediated anti-nociceptive effect in common tests of chemical and thermal nociception in mice. A concomitant increase in cerebrospinal fluid levels of adenosine supports their hypothesis that inhibiting XO increases adenosine levels via salvage from hypoxanthine. Elevating endogenous adenosine levels by inhibiting metabolism is a well-established strategy for producing anti-nociception in many preclinical models, but inhibiting XO is likely to be particularly beneficial in some chronic pain states because of the pro-nociceptive reactive oxygen species that are produced by XO activity. Thus, allopurinol may have unexpected benefits in pain associated with chronic inflammation, diabetes and vascular dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-6
Number of pages3
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


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