Lyrica And Neurontin Prescriptions Soar, Abuse Increasingly Common
A new research letter published in JAMA Internal Medicine contends that while the use of pregabalin and gabapentin (Lyrica and Neurontin, respectively) has spiked dramatically in the U.S., minimal attention has been given to their effectiveness and safety.
Pregabalin and gabapentin are a type of nerve medication called gabapentinoids, a class of drug that has been increasingly prescribed as opioid alternatives for the treatment of neuropathic conditions such as fibromyalgia.
For the study, health data for approximately 350,000 patients were examined, and researchers discovered that the use of gabapentinoids increased more than three-fold in the last decade from 1.2 percent of patients in 2002 to nearly 4% in 2015.
Concerningly, most of the use was found among older adults with multiple health conditions who were often being co-prescribed benzodiazepines or opioids.
Lead author Michael Johansen, M.D.:
“The combination of a dearth of long-term safety data, small effect sizes, concern for increased risk of overdose in combination with opioid use, and high rates of off-label prescribing, which are associated with high rates of adverse effects, raises concern about the levels of gabapentinoid use.”
This research adds to increasing evidence that suggests that pregabalin and gabapentin are being overprescribed and abused.
Both drugs are made by Pfizer and generate billions in sales each year. Lyrica is indicated for the treatment of fibromyalgia and diabetic and post-herpetic nerve pain, while Neurontin is approved to treat epilepsy and nerve pain, also. They are also both frequently prescribed off-label for conditions such as chronic back pain, depression, and migraines.
One reason for the increase in sales over the last few years was the release of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines that recommended that both drugs could be used as alternatives to opioids. By 2016, around 64 million prescriptions were written for Neurontin, an increase of nearly 50% in five years.
Finally, recreational use of gabapentinoids has also increased, as those already dependent on opioids have found that they enhance the effects of heroin and other drugs.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology