How did we discover Phenytoin Cream?

How did we discover Phenytoin cream? We read the books of the Wallstreet tycoon Jack Dreyfuss, ‘the story of a remarkable medicine‘, where he presented Phenytoin as a very special drug. He subsequently created a foundation, the Dreyfus Medical Foundation.

That foundation created a book on ‘the broad range of clinical use of Phenytoin’. In that book many chapters on the remarkable properties of it, amongst others as a painkiller for

  • postherpetic neuralgia
  • dysesthesia
  • trigeminal neuralgia
  • CRPS, and may other
  • pain syndromes

wikipedia phenytoin structure molecule cream

The foundation also added a chapter on this medication as a preventive. This provoked us to look into the protective properties of this drug. We found out that it has been explored as a cytoprotective and neuroprotective drug already many decades ago.

In the article ‘How to Define Neuroprotection: The Case of Phenytoin’, we discussed many of the neuroprotective experiments with this special molecule.


We subsequently started a collaboration with Italian eye specialists, as there were clear indicators for retinaprotection. We understood that retinaprotection and protection of the small unmyelated fibers in the skin will have many similarities.

And that the retina can serve as a model to test the neuroprotective properties of this for small fibers.

This paper was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and was one of our keystone papers supporting the idea of a analgesic+ cream.

In pain medicine we do not want analgesia alone, we want protection of the degenerating nerve fibers. This medication might very well be such disease-modifying analgesic drug.



May 2019, prof. dr. Jan M. Keppel Hesselink, MD, PhD, pain specialist
‘How did we discover Phenytoin Cream?’


Publications about Phenytoin and Cancer Pain

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Central sensitization: according to professor Dickenson
Pfizer initiates Neuropathic Pain Research Awards

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