Some patients taking gabapentin had side effects, most commonly nausea and fatigue, which were eliminated by lowering the dose, the researchers said.
"This study has opened up the door for further investigation of gabapentin," Ryan said. "The addition of gabapentin to chronic cough standard practice guidelines should be considered, although replication studies are necessary before this happens."
Gabapentin is sold under several brand names, including Fanatrex, Gabarone, Gralise, Horizant and Neurontin. The drug is also available as a generic.
Dr. Len Horovitz, an internist and pulmonologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, isn't convinced a lot of people suffer with unexplained chronic cough.
"In almost every instance, you find the cause of the cough and treat it and it disappears," he said. "In over 30 years of practice I haven't seen 11 to 16 percent of patients with central sensitization as a reason for chronic cough," not even one.
If there were such a case, it's possible that gabapentin could have a role in treating it since it suppresses the brain area that controls cough, he acknowledged.
But the most common cause of chronic cough is undetected or under-treated sinusitis, Horovitz said.
In this study, he noted, many of those taking placebo also showed improvement, indicating their cough might be psychologically based.
Horovitz added that serious side effects, such as hallucinations, can occur with gabapentin, making the drug intolerable for some patients.
"So before reaching for gabapentin, I would continue a search and try to pin down a diagnosis," Horovitz said.
For more on cough, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Nicole Ryan, Ph.D., clinical research scie
All rights reserved