Pregabalin and gabapentin will be reclassified as class C drugs next year following a rising numbers of deaths linked to the drugs, the UK Government has said.
The Home Office announced on 15 October that the prescription-only anti-convulsant medicines will be reclassified from April 2019.
Under the changes, pregabalin and gabapentin will face tighter controls to help prevent people from stockpiling, misusing and becoming addicted to the drugs, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability Victoria Atkins said.
This means that it will be illegal for people to possess the drugs without a prescription, which will have to be “physically” signed by the GP before being accepted in a pharmacy. Pharmacists will also be required to dispense the drugs within 28 days of the prescription being issued.
“Serious side effects”
The drugs can cause elevated mood, but can have “serious side effects, particularly when used in combination with other drugs”, the Home Office said.
This follows a consultation launched last year, which looked at whether the two medicines should be controlled as class C drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and defined as schedule 3 drugs as part of the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001.
Stronger controls in place
Ms Atkins said: “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.”
According to the Home Office, pregabalin and gabapentin are “often used by people who misuse opioids”, highly resulting in criminal behaviour to try and get hold of the drugs
Supporting pharmacists in managing stock
Although Royal Pharmaceutical President (RPS) Ash Soni welcomed the move, he argued that pharmacies will need support to ensure they do not end up with out-of-date stocks of the drugs.
He told our sister publication The Pharmacist on 16 October: “These [drugs] are widely prescribed and have a wide range of strengths.
“It is likely that there will be some reduction in the prescribing of these drugs and pharmacies will need support in managing their stock holding to ensure they meet patient demand but not end up with significant stocks that go out of date.
“It will be important that patients are made aware of the changes, to ensure that they understand the new requirements for prescriptions, particularly regarding the time limits for dispensing and restrictions in prescribed quantity.”
A version of this article first appeared on our sister publication The Pharmaicst