In spite of the evidence regarding high variability in the response to evoked pain, little attention has been paid to its impact on the screening of drugs for inflammatory and neuropathic pain. In this study, we explore the feasibility of introducing optimality concepts to experimental protocols, enabling estimation of parameter and model uncertainty. Pharmacokinetic (PK) and pharmacodynamic data from different experiments in rats were pooled and modelled using nonlinear mixed effects modelling. Pain data on gabapentin and placebo-treated animals were generated in the complete Freund’s adjuvant model of neuropathic pain. A logistic regression model was applied to optimise sampling times and dose levels to be used in an experimental protocol. Drug potency (EC(50)) and interindividual variability (IIV) were considered the parameters of interest. Different experimental designs were tested and validated by SSE (stochastic simulation and estimation) taking into account relevant exposure ranges. The pharmacokinetics of gabapentin was described by a two-compartment PK model with first order absorption (CL = 0.159 l h(-1), V(2) = 0.118 l, V(3) = 0.253 l, Ka = 0.26 h(-1), Q = 1.22 l h(-1)). Drug potency (EC(50)) for the anti-allodynic effects was estimated to be 1400 ng ml(-1). Protocol optimisation improved bias and precision of the EC50 by 6 and 11.9. %, respectively, whilst IIV estimates showed improvement of 31.89 and 14.91 %, respectively. Our results show that variability in behavioural models of evoked pain response leads to uncertainty in drug potency estimates, with potential impact on the ranking of compounds during screening. As illustrated for gabapentin, ED-optimality concepts enable analysis of discrete data taking into account experimental constraints.