Concerns Raised Over Gabapentin Misuse
October 10, 2017 – As discussion continues regarding opioid use and safety in the United States, concerns have been raised over the potential for abuse of gabapentin, an anticonvulsant medication that currently holds FDA approval for the treatment of post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) and as an adjunctive therapy for partial seizures. The drug is also commonly prescribed for off-label uses, including neuropathic pain, treatment of restless leg syndrome, behavioral health conditions, and migraines; according to GoodRx, it is the fifth-most prescribed drug in the United States.
Concerns regarding gabapentin and its potential for abuse are two-fold. When combined with opioids or other drugs, such as methadone or heroin, gabapentin can enhance the euphoric sensations an individual may experience. In some cases, individuals may use high doses of gabapentin alone to produce feelings of tranquility, excitement, or friendliness. PLOS Medicine recently published a study that linked the combined use of gabapentin and opioid painkillers to a higher risk of opioid overdose compared to the use of opioids alone.
Gabapentin, along with Pfizer’s Lyrica® (pregabalin) is an analog of the inhibitory neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which slows down nerve impulses and has a sedative effect. While Lyrica is considered a controlled substance, gabapentin is not. Unlike Lyrica, which is available in the U.S. as a single-source brand name drug only, gabapentin is available both as a generic, and in several brand name forms: Pfizer’s Neurontin®; Depomed’s Gralise®; and Arbor Pharmaceuticals’ Horizant® (gabapentin enacarbi).
In response to the potential for misuse of gabapentin, states such as Ohio have begun to track sales of the drug (as well as sales of Lyrica), and the United Kingdom has begun a process to reclassify gabapentin and related drugs as controlled substances.
Adverse reactions or quality problems experienced with the use of a recalled product may be reported to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program either online, by U.S. mail or by fax.
- Complete and submit the report Online: www.fda.gov/medwatch/report.htm
- U.S. Mail or Fax: Download form www.fda.gov/MedWatch/getforms.htm or call 1-800-332-1088 to request a reporting form, then complete and return to the address on the pre-addressed form, or submit by fax to 1-800-FDA-0178
Actual drug patent expiration dates and availability of new medications are subject to change due to patent litigation, settlement agreements, additional patents, exclusivities, and final FDA approval. Distribution and availability of new medications at pharmacies may not occur immediately following FDA approval. Patients are advised to speak with their healthcare professional or pharmacist regarding appropriateness as well as actual availability.
*This is provided for information only. The reference to any medication above does not mean the medication is covered by your plan.