If you have experienced pain in Australia in recent years you may well have been prescribed the new pain ‘wonder drug’ Lyrica (Pregabalin) by your GP. It is now the most common prescription medication for pain on the PBS and the sixth most prescribed drug overall. (PBS Expenditure and Prescriptions Report 2018-19).
Lyrica (Pregabalin) was developed in the US in the early 1990’s by Pfizer and belongs to the anticonvulsant group of medicines and was originally developed to treat epilepsy. These medicines are thought to work by controlling brain chemicals which send signals to nerves preventing seizures from occurring.
Lyrica has also shown positive effects on neuropathic pain. Lyrica has been listed on the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme since March 1, 2013, although it was trialled in some patients with persistent neuropathic pain before this time. Neuropathic pain is caused by an abnormality of, or damage to the nerves.
Lyrica can be used on its own or in combination with other medicines. It is largely prescribed by Neurologists, Psychiatrists and of course GP’s.
However, the use of Lyrica has been associated with changes in mood and the development of depression and/or suicidal ideation which is not so commonly reported and patients not warned about.
Unfortunately, the “Opioid Crisis” has caused so many problems with dependency, addiction and opioid related overdose deaths that doctors have increasingly prescribed Lyrica, and at times have not warned or educated the patient on Lyrica’s listed side-effects namely that it can double a patient’s risk of suicidal thinking or behaviour versus a placebo. Pfizer states for every 530 patients treated, one additional person may experience suicidal thinking or behaviour.
However, this is not the experience by the Gold Coast Interdisciplinary Persistent Pain Centre, which raised serious concerns with approximately 5 of their 50 patients in 2013 experiencing suicidal thoughts or increased depression when prescribed Lyrica after being listed by the PBS on March 1 2013. You may read the article on the RACGP link below.
You only have to google Lyrica to see the serious and worrying side effects of Lyrica for many patients and their families.
Director of the Institute for Musculoskeletal Health at the University of Sydney, Professor Chris Maher, was involved in a trial investigating whether pregabalin could reduce the intensity of the back and leg pain, sciatica. He said he almost cancelled the trial after patients complained of developing sudden suicidal urges.
It is not just the worry of developing suicidal ideation, but as stated in the GCIPPC
Article, that medication side effects are “incorrectly attributed to an existing mood disorder or chronic pain and treated inappropriately”. With pain an already extremely difficult condition to manage this could mean that patients are incorrectly treated.
So, make sure your concerns are heard by your doctor, because you know your body better than anyone.
On Jan 30, 2020 the US Food and Drug Administration or FDA released a new warning that serious breathing difficulties may occur in patients with the use of Gabapentin or Pregabalin who have respiratory risk factors.
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has also investigated continuing reports of misuse, abuse and dependence with Pregabalin. As a result of this investigation the TGA has updated the drugs product and consumer information one year later to highlight the risks as of 1 February 2021.
What you may also not be aware of is that the US Department of Justice in fact was involved in the largest civil fraud settlement in US history of 1 billion dollars against a pharmaceutical company (Pfizer) for illegally promoting 4 drugs of which Lyrica was one, which “caused false claims to be submitted to Government health care programs for uses that were not medically accepted indications and therefore not covered by those programs”. Other allegations that were resolved included Pfizer paying kickbacks to health care providers to induce them to prescribe these and other drugs.
So, if you take Lyrica or know someone that does, please make them aware of the increased risk for new or worsening:
> thoughts of suicide
> other changes in your mood
> and understand the risks associated with gabapentanoids when taken with central nervous system (CNS) depressants like opioids or by patients with underlying respiratory impairment.
Please tell your doctor, but do not abruptly stop the medication. Research all new medication thoroughly and question everything!