New research presented at the 68th AACC Annual Scientific Meeting and Clinical Lab Expo in Philadelphia warns of escalating rates of misuse of gabapentin, used to treat nerve pain associated with shingles. The study found at 20% of patients on opioid therapy and who were being monitored for compliance in their use of opioids tested positive for gabapentin although it was not prescribed for them. Calling the results “…a wakeup call for prescribers,” researcher Poluru L. Reddy, PhD, DABCC, the medical director of ARIA Diagnostics and ARCTIC Medical Labs, continued, “Doctors don’t usually screen for gabapentin abuse when making sure patients are taking medications, such as opioids, as prescribed. These findings reveal that there is a growing risk of abuse and a need for more robust testing.”
When taken alone, gabapentin, branded as Neurontin®, carries little risk of abuse, and it is not scheduled as a controlled substance. But it can be abused to enhance a patient’s “high” when combined with opioids, muscle relaxants, or anxiety medications. The ARIA Diagnostics researchers examined 323 samples from pain and rehabilitation clinics and found that 56% of those patients who took gabapentin illicitly were also taking opioids, and over one quarter were combining it with both opioids and muscle relaxants or anxiety medications. The authors urge prescribers to be cautious in prescribing gabapentin and to assess and monitor their patients for medication abuse.
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Read more about the findings and concerns, and access a link to the presentation abstract here.