Pregabalin, the drug causing deaths in Europe

An investigation published by the British media outlet The Sunday Times has caused alarm: over the past five years, there have been almost 3,400 deaths associated with pregabalin in the United Kingdom.

But what exactly is this drug? Are there potential dangers associated with pregabalin? In what case is it prescribed? These are some of the immediate concerns about this anticonvulsant drug, which was approved by the FDA in 2004.

As explained Daniela Guzmán Rivera, academician at the School of Chemistry and Pharmacy of Andrés Bello University: “Pregabalin is a drug belonging to the family gabapentinoids, Its effects are to block or suppress certain nerve signals in the brain and peripheral nervous system, which helps reduce pain and control seizures,” he elaborates.

Pregabalin is commonly prescribed to treat a variety of conditions, including neuropathic pain (caused by damage or dysfunction of the nervous system), such as that caused by diabetic neuropathy, spinal cord injury, postherpetic neuralgia (persistent pain after an episode of shingles), fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia. . It is also used in the treatment of epilepsy, generalized anxiety disorder and restless legs syndrome.

Regarding the publication of the British media The Sunday Times about the increase in mortality associated with this drug, a pharmaceutical chemist and professor at the Department of Pharmacology confirms its potential danger. “This may be due to a number of factors, including the possibility of overdose, serious side effects, or interactions with other medications or substances. Additionally, according to the FDA’s 2020 assessment, there has been an increase in pregabalin prescriptions in recent years, as well as concerns about misuse and abuse,” he explains.

According to the scientist, “Pregabalin is usually combined with other central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which increases the risk of respiratory depression. CNS depressants include opioids, anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, and antihistamines. Likewise, it is important to consider the risk of respiratory distress in patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and the elderly, as dizziness or sedation may increase the risk of falls and fractures.

Side effects

As the expert notes, the drug has a number of side effects. The most common symptoms of pregabalin use include headaches, dizziness, diarrhea, drowsiness, dry mouth, weight gain, and blurred vision. However, more serious side effects may occur, such as memory problems, mood changes, suicidal thoughts, swelling of the arms and legs, and breathing problems.

Likewise, the scientist states that “pregabalin has been reported to be addictive.” physically and psychologically, although it is classified as a drug with low abuse potential. Stopping the medication suddenly may cause withdrawal symptoms such as restlessness, insomnia, nausea, headache, sweating, and shaking. Therefore, it is important to gradually reduce your dose under your doctor’s supervision if you want to stop taking this medication.”

In Chile, pregabalin is a controlled drug and is mainly used to treat neuropathic pain as well as anxiety disorders. It is prescribed under the supervision of a physician and purchased in pharmacies with a valid prescription.

“So far, the ISP and the Ministry of Health have not provided any reports on possible associated risks, such as serious side effects or the potential for abuse. Health“, emphasizes Daniela Guzmán.

However, he adds that “based on data from other countries, certain risk factors have been identified for the misuse of pregabalin. These include a history of opioid use (such as tramadol), male gender, young age (18 to 45 years), presence of chronic diseases, chronic pain and mental disorders.”

The pharmacist also warns that “cases of self-medication for anxiolytic or analgesic purposes have also been observed. Given the availability of drugs in unapproved locations in our country and the potential risk of self-medication, it is imperative to educate patients on the proper use of the drug. This involves informing them about possible side effects and associated risks, including addiction. physical and psychological, as well as the dangers of combining pregabalin with other drugs or substances.”

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