On September 17, 2019 Health Canada released a MedEffect Notice advising of a risk associated with the combination of gabapentin or pregabalin drugs with opioids. The notice links the use of these drugs in combination to opioid overdose and other serious side effects like respiratory depression (slowed breathing), increased sedation (sleepiness), dizziness, fainting, and death.
Gabapentin is commonly known as Neurontin and is prescribed to treat epilepsy, while the related drug pregabalin is commonly known as Lyrica and is prescribed to treat nerve pain.
A 2017 study concluded that gabapentin was concomitantly prescribed with opiods in 46% of cases. We’re aware that many Canadians receiving Lyrica treatment for nerve pain in conditions like fibromyalgia are often prescribed opioids for pain as well. A patient in pain ought to be able to trust a physician’s recommendation of medication. And, seeing how these drugs are covered by insurance companies (unlike natural health products) a patient in pain should also be able to assume these are the safest options.
Natural options for pain management and nerve health might cost too much out of pocket, especially for someone who is in too much pain to work. The affordable drug option is more accessible, thus effectively stripping the choice to treat one’s body naturally. Safe and effective natural health products, which have been traditionally used for generations to relieve pain naturally, are difficult to access and would rarely, if ever, be recommended by a primary medical care provider. Instead, drugs with epidemic-level fatalities are the treatment of choice.
Health Canada has one recommendation for opioid overdose due to the prescription combination of gabapentin or pregabalin and opioid use: naloxone. Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Consequently, responding to the overdose with another drug.
This seems like a wonderful subject for your letter to your MP on the hot-button issue of opioid-related deaths.