The government has confirmed that two widely used painkillers are to be put under stricter controls from next year onwards. The move follows a sharp increase in the number of deaths linked to their use.
The drugs – pregabalin and gabapentin – will be reclassified as class C controlled substances under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001. This will will make it illegal to possess them without a prescription from April 2019. It will also be unlawful to supply or sell them to others.
Experts have highlighted the rising numbers of fatalities linked to the drugs and the government has acted on advice in making this change.
Both drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety, nerve pain and epilepsy. They can elevate mood in users but can also have dangerous side effects, which are increased when taken in combination with other drugs. Drowsiness, respiratory failure and even death can occur when the drugs are taken with depressants.
The stronger controls are designed to lower the chances pregabalin and gabapentin getting into the wrong hands or being stored in bulk by patients
From next year, electronic copies of prescriptions for the drugs will no longer be accepted by pharmacists and doctors will now have to physically sign prescriptions. The drugs will then have to be dispensed by the pharmacist within 28 days of the prescription being written.
Outlining the new measures, Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins stated that the change in the law was a result of the government listening to recommendations made by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). It was in 2016 that the council first reported their concerns about addiction, medicinal misuse, illegal diversion of the drugs.
The minister confirmed that although misuse of drugs is lower now than it was a decade ago, the government remains committed to reducing the abuse of drugs and the harm it causes.