A single pill containing the pain relievers tramadol and acetaminophen is as effective as the drug gabapentin for treating diabetes-related nerve pain, according to study findings presented Tuesday at the 20th World Diabetes Congress in Montreal.

Gabapentin is an anti-seizure drug frequently prescribed for epilepsy. The drug is also used to treat persistent neurological pain.

In general, gabapentin is regarded as a first-line therapy for diabetic neuropathy -- a painful condition that causes a range of symptoms from a tingling sensation or numbness in the toes and fingers to paralysis, lead researcher Dr. Bong Yun Cha, from the Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, told Reuters Health.

In the current study, Cha and colleagues compared gabapentin with the tramadol/acetaminophen (TA) combination pill in adults with painful diabetic neuropathy in the lower extremities. Sixty-six study subjects received TA and 73 received gabapentin.

The study was sponsored by JANSSEN KOREA, which markets the combination pill as Ultracet in the US.

Cha and colleagues report that the two groups experienced similar improvements in pain and related parameters over the 6-week study period.

Moreover, the rate of treatment-associated side events in the TA group was not significantly different from that in the gabapentin group: 50.6 percent vs. 36.9 percent.

The current findings, said Cha, support TA as a suitable alternative to gabapentin as a first-line therapy for painful diabetic neuropathy.