Novel Aspects of Pain Management: Opioids and Beyond. Edited by Jana Sawynok, Alan Cowan.New York, Wiley-Liss, 1999. Pages: 373. Cost: $119.95.

This text definitely is not “Pain Drugs for Dummies” because it contains 17 scholarly reviews, with an average of 121 references each. Intended for academic scientists, clinicians interested in new therapies for pain control, and scientists in the pharmaceutical industry, this text evaluates many groups of compounds that affect pain processing. These include opioids, antiinflammatories, vanilloids, neurokinins, excitatory amino acids, inhibitory amino acids, α-adrenergic agonists, serotonergic agents, purines, cholinergic agonists, dopaminergic drugs, antidepressants, and voltage-gated ion-channel modulators, to name a few. Additional chapters about the neurophysiology of pain, animals models of pain, and special discussions related to peripherally acting agents and spinal drug interactions all make for a comprehensive text about drugs for pain treatment.

This is not a book for light reading, but it is a useful summary of work on analgesics up to the current time. Consisting predominantly of text and tables, along with a limited number of figures, the book compresses a huge amount of information. The authors and editors are well-recognized pain researchers and scholars from North America and Europe who have treated their subjects fairly, citing more than their own work on the topic. According to the preface, the authors were asked to provide an historical perspective of the class of agents they considered and to assess the potential for therapeutic development. The discussions focus heavily on basic science investigations, but important aspects related to the translation of these investigations into clinical practice are not ignored, even when the results have been disappointing.

If you are looking for a book to assist your interpretation of what new substance is being rubbed, swallowed, or injected to block pain this week, this is the book for you. If you are a new investigator who wants to study analgesics, you have found a treasure. If you are looking for clinical “pearls” related to pain management, this is not your text. It is somewhat expensive, but, considering the life span of a text that summarizes an active research field, the cost is probably justifiable. Overall, this is a useful summary of ongoing research related to analgesics that is beneficial to novices and experienced investigators both.