A number of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients are prescribed pregabalin or gabapentin to help manage MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity, but back in October 2018 the government took the decision to reclassify these drugs as class C controlled substances.
The move comes after experts highlighted rising numbers of fatalities linked to the drugs. The change means it will be illegal to possess pregabalin and gabapentin without a prescription and it will be illegal to supply or sell them to others.
The drugs, which are used to treat nerve pain, epilepsy and anxiety, can bring about an elevated mood in users but can also have serious side effects, particularly when used in combination with other drugs.
In 2016, the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) raised concerns over medicinal misuse, illegal diversion of the drugs and addiction, and recommended that pregabalin and gabapentin should be controlled as class C Drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
The government accepted the ACMD’s advice and launched a public consultation to assess the impact on the healthcare sector. Pharmacies, doctors, pharmaceutical companies and patients responded to the consultation, which has been published today, backing the tighter controls of the drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations.
Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said: “Any death related to the misuse of drugs is a tragedy. We accepted expert advice and will now change the law to help prevent misuse of pregabalin and gabapentin and addiction to them.
“While drug misuse is lower now than it was 10 years ago, we remain committed to reducing it and the harm it causes.”
The law change will mean the drugs are still available for legitimate use on prescription, but there will be stronger controls in place to ensure accountability and minimise the chances of pregabalin and gabapentin falling into the wrong hands or being stockpiled by patients.
Doctors will now need to physically sign prescriptions, rather than electronic copies being accepted by pharmacists. In addition, pharmacists must dispense the drugs within 28 days of the prescription being written. This means that you will require more frequent prescriptions as the amount prescribed will be restricted. You can take controlled drugs abroad but you must be able to prove it is prescribed to you (a letter from your prescriber will suffice). If you are travelling for at least three months or carrying enough to last that long you will need to get a licence. The following government link provides all the information needed for applying for a licence and what information is needed for a letter of proof: https://www.gov.uk/travelling-controlled-drugs.
If you have any further questions contact the MS-UK Helpline team on freephone 0800 783 0518.
Source: MS-UK 04/03/19