ABSTRACT: Experimental data have suggested that in neuropathic pain, tricyclic antidepressants may work solely through a β2-agonist action. The aim of this study was to test if the β2-agonist terbutaline relieves painful polyneuropathy. The study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled and active-controlled, 3-way, cross-over trial among patients with painful polyneuropathy. The treatment periods were of 5 weeks' duration and were preceded by 1 week for washout and 1 week for baseline observations. The patients received terbutaline (5-15 mg), imipramine (30-150 mg), or placebo in a random order. Drug doses depended on age and metabolizer status. The change in total pain recorded from ratings in diaries (numeric rating scale [NRS] 0-10) was the primary outcome, and the change in rating of specific pain symptoms (NRS 0-10), patient global impression of change, and sleep disturbance were secondary outcomes. Forty-seven patients were randomized. The median score for total pain changed from NRS 6.4 to 6.1 from baseline to week 5 on terbutaline with an average effect during the treatment period as compared with placebo of 0.13 (95% confidence interval -0.12 to 0.38, P = 0.32). The median score for total pain on imipramine changed from NRS 6.6 to 4.8 with an average effect as compared with placebo of -1.17 (95% confidence interval -1.42 to -0.92, P < 0.001). Secondary outcomes were also unaltered by terbutaline but improved by imipramine. The β2-agonist terbutaline has no effect in painful polyneuropathy. β2-agonism seems not to be an important mechanism of action of tricyclic antidepressants in neuropathic pain.