On this Blog we have followed the story of plans to make Pregabalin and Gabapentin Class ‘C’, or ‘controlled’, drugs. Both are anti-epileptic drugs but one or other also form part of the daily medication regime of countless people suffering chronic neuropathic pain.
This follows a recommendation to the Home Office by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD), which was subsequently supported by the doctors’ trade union, the British Medical Association (BMA).
Now, the government have formally announced that the reclassification will come into force in April 2019. The change will mean that it will be illegal to possess Pregabalin or Gabapentin without a doctor’s prescription. In addition, without a licence, it will be illegal to supply or sell these drugs.
Pregabalin and Gabapentin will now be categorised alongside drugs such as the opioids Buprenorphine and Tramadol, both prescribed for chronic pain.
Citing a number of fatalities linked to the misuse of these drugs, the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, Victoria Atkins, said:
“Any death related to the misuse of drugs is a tragedy. We accepted expert advice and will now change the law to help prevent misuse of pregabalin and gabapentin and addiction to them.
“While drug misuse is lower now than it was 10 years ago, we remain committed to reducing it and the harm it causes.
“That is why we have published a comprehensive strategy to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.”
Among the changes required, the move means that Doctors will need to sign prescriptions physically with a ‘wet signature’. Electronic copies will not be accepted by pharmacists, who must also dispense the drugs within 28 days of the prescription being written.
As has been seen in the case of other medications re-categorised as controlled drugs, the move will inevitably lead to an increased reluctance by doctors to prescribe them and many patients are worried.
Our client Ben, who has taken Pregabalin for over two years, alongside a number of other drugs for his chronic pain condition, said:
“I’ve been keeping an eye on this over the last few months and you can’t help but be worried. I’ve been settled on my meds for a long time now but it took ages to find the right combination that suited me. It’s really difficult to find the right balance between managing the pain and not having too many side-effects, which are very unpleasant. I think my current GP will be fine because she knows me and she was the one who helped me to find the right combination, but I know she’s retiring soon and I’m concerned what my new doctor’s attitude will be. You hear so many horror stories of people having their meds stopped.”