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Gabapentinoid Use on the Rise, Despite Lack of Long-Term Safety Data

January 5, 2018
Prescribed opioid alternatives such as pregabalin and gabapentin have risen significantly since 2002

A PPM Brief

Gabapentinoid use, according to a newly published JAMA Internal Medicine paper by Johansen, is on the rise. Both pregabalin and gabapentin are FDA indicated for partial seizers and postherpetic neuralgia, among other conditions, but have been used off-label in pain management for many years. Johansen reviewed the CDC’s Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys from 2002 to 2015. The reports document more than 346,000 patient-reported medical conditions and their identified prescriptions for gabapentinoid, benzodiazepine, opioids, and more.

These prescriptions rose across the board during the time period analyzed. Gabapentin and/or pregabalin use increased from 1.2% to 3.9% between 2002 and 2015, with the most significant increases of gabapentin taking place after 2008 and pregabalin plateauing after that time.

The result: Today, “nearly one in 25 adults takes a gabapentinoid during a year, which matters because we have little data to support much use of this drug class and minimal data to support the long-term safety of the medications,” said study author Dr. Michael Johansen of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine at Ohio University in Athens in a Reuters release.

Increases were further concentrated among those patients who were older, had diabetes or other chronic diseases, or who were already taking prescribed opioids or benzodiazepines. The rise is in prescriptions for these medications is not surprising given the country’s focus toward opioid alternatives. But cautioned Johansen in his paper, these opioid-sparing options do not have long-term safety data yet and may also lead to addictive behavior.


Last updated on: January 11, 2018
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