ABSTRACT The aim here was to conduct a review of the literature on pharmacological therapies for modifying the neurological status of patients with spinal cord injuries. The PubMed database was searched for articles with the terms "spinal cord injury AND methylprednisolone/GM1/apoptosis inhibitor/calpain inhibitor/naloxone/tempol/tirilazad", in Portuguese or in English, published over the last five years. Older studies were included because of their historical importance. The pharmacological groups were divided according to their capacity to interfere with the physiopathological mechanisms of secondary injuries. Use of methylprednisolone needs to be carefully weighed up: other anti-inflammatory agents have shown benefits in humans or in animals. GM1 does not seem to have greater efficacy than methylprednisolone, but longer-term studies are needed. Many inhibitors of apoptosis have shown benefits inin vitro studies or in animals. Naloxone has not shown benefits. Tempol inhibits the main consequences of oxidation at the level of the spinal cord and other antioxidant drugs seem to have an effect superior to that of methylprednisolone. There is an urgent need to find new treatments that improve the neurological status of patients with spinal cord injuries. The benefits from treatment with methylprednisolone have been questioned, with concerns regarding its safety. Other drugs have been studied, and some of these may provide promising alternatives. Additional studies are needed in order to reach conclusions regarding the benefits of these agents in clinical practice.