Conference Coverage

Abuse rate of gabapentin, pregabalin far below that of opioids



– Prescription opioid abuse has continued declining since 2011, but opioids remain far more commonly abused than other prescription drugs, including gabapentin and pregabalin, new research shows.

“Both gabapentin and pregabalin are abused but at rates that are 6-56 times less frequent than for opioid analgesics,” wrote Kofi Asomaning, DSci, of Pfizer, and associates at Pfizer and Denver Health’s Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center.

“Gabapentin is generally more frequently abused than pregabalin,” they reported in a research poster at the annual meeting of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence.

The researchers analyzed data from the RADARS System Survey of Non-Medical Use of Prescription Drugs Program (NMURx), the RADARS System Treatment Center Programs Combined, and the American Association of Poison Control Centers National Poison Data System (NPDS).

All those use self-reported data. The first is a confidential, anonymous web-based survey used to estimate population-level prevalence, and the second surveys patients with opioid use disorder entering treatment. The NPDS tracks all cases reported to poison control centers nationally.

Analysis of the NMURx data revealed similar lifetime abuse prevalence rates for gabapentin and pregabalin at 0.4%, several magnitudes lower than the 5.3% rate identified with opioids.

Gabapentin, however, had higher rates of abuse in the past month in the Treatment Center Programs Combined. For the third to fourth quarter of 2017, 0.12 per 100,000 population reportedly abused gabapentin, compared with 0.01 per 100,000 for pregabalin. The rate for past-month abuse of opioids was 0.79 per 100,000.

A similar pattern for the same quarter emerged from the NPDS data: Rate of gabapentin abuse was 0.06 per 100,000, rate for pregabalin was 0.01 per 100,000, and rate for opioids was 0.40 per 100,000.

Both pregabalin and opioids were predominantly ingested, though a very small amount of each was inhaled and a similarly small amount of opioids was injected. Data on exposure route for gabapentin were not provided, though it was used more frequently than pregabalin.

The research was funded by Pfizer. The RADARS system is owned by Denver Health and Hospital Authority under the Colorado state government. RADARS receives some funding from pharmaceutical industry subscriptions. Dr. Asomaning and Diane L. Martire, MD, MPH, are Pfizer employees who have financial interests with Pfizer.

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