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The Early Warning and Emerging Trends (EWET) subcommittee of the National Advisory Committee on Drugs and Alcohol issued the clinical advisory on pregabalin and gabapentin in June.
It advised that both drugs presented a risk of addiction and a potential for illegal diversion and medicinal misuse.
This clinical advisory is the only one issued to date in 2016 by the EWET. It was circulated to emergency department doctors and nurses, GPs registered with the HSE PCRS, and community pharmacists
A Department of Health spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI): “Over the past two years the EWET has received a number of anecdotal reports on the misuse of pregabalin and to a lesser extent the misuse of gabapentin.
“Recently, this information has been bolstered with evidenced-based reports about the misuse of these medicines for recreational use and through their appearance in toxicology screenings by the National Drug Treatment Centre and Forensic Science Ireland.
“Furthermore, dispensing data from the PCRS over the past five years shows a dramatic and continued increase in the volume of dispensed pregabalin, suggesting that those who are misusing these medicines may be sourcing them through legal as well as illegal channels.”
The spokesperson added: “While dispensing increases may be partly attributable to the greater number of authorised indications for pregabalin, it appears from the emerging evidence that the misuse of this drug may also be a significant factor in the escalating numbers of pregabalin items being dispensed in Ireland.”
In its clinical advisory, the EWET noted that pregabalin and gabapentin were originally developed and authorised as treatments for epilepsy.