Health charity Pain Concern is warning that moves to restrict prescribed painkillers pregabalin and gabapentin over their association with rising death rates and mis-use would have a serious impact on people who depend on the medication for relief from long-term pain.
Home Office proposals to reclassify both gabapentin and pregabalin – commonly used to treat neuropathic or nerve pain – as class ‘C’ substances, will make access to them more difficult. Publicity surrounding the proposal has also created fear and anxiety and left people who depend on gabapentin or pregabalin for pain relief, questioning the safety of the two medicines which, if used responsibly and with the right combination of support, can change the lives of people who have previously struggled to manage pain symptoms.
Heather Wallace, Chair of Pain Concern – a UK charity based in Scotland – acknowledges the rise in the number of deaths associated with pregabalin and gabapentin but says the circumstances around the alarming statistics haven’t been properly examined.
Heather said: “We have known for a long time that these medicines have been over-prescribed, but the people who find them beneficial for pain relief, haven’t misused them and feel they are being punished for something they haven’t done. In many cases it is difficult to find the right combination of pain relief, and we know from our helpline that people have been left fearful and confused by this proposal and all the publicity it has generated. It’s premature and risks harming people who are using these medicines because there is nothing else for them that works.”
Pain specialist Dr Pamela Bell believes that open and informed discussion between people living with pain and their GP about the benefits versus the risks of potential treatment, including the risks of dependency, addiction and interactions with other drugs, is vital. “We know many people who benefit from these medicines when they are appropriately prescribed and we share their concerns at moves to reclassify pregabalin and gabapentin. Many people tell us it has taken years for them to find the right combination of medication, physiotherapy and support that allows them a better quality of life and it will prove more difficult to access pregabalin and gabapentin when they are reclassified as controlled drugs.”
Pain Concern works to empower people living with long term pain to be proactive in managing their condition and has in response to the demand for trustworthy and reliable information on pain medication has produced three information leaflets on: gabapentin and pregabalin; amitriptyline and opioids. Written by pain experts, the leaflets provide up-to-date information and facts to help people discuss possible treatments and therapies with their GP or clinic.