KENILWORTH, N.J.–With increased physician prescribing of the drug gabapentin, RDx BioScience (RDx), a leading provider of full-service, high quality laboratory and genomic testing, highlights the significance of new regulations requiring NJ-licensed pharmacies and registered out-of-State pharmacies to electronically transmit information to the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs about prescriptions dispensed for this 25-year-old generic pill. Long seen as a low risk way to treat seizures, nerve pain and other ailments, gabapentin is reported as a new way to get high, and is now recognized as a “drug of concern” stemming from national prescription and overdose data.
Scott Howell, DO, MPH&TM, CPE, chief medical officer, RDx, explains, “NJ joins a growing list of states that have already begun to monitor gabapentin use, including those that have scheduled the medication at the state level. This also points to the need for screening patients more regularly, even though most providers do not order gabapentin along with opioids or illicit drugs.”
He says that the prevalence of gabapentin abuse in the general population is only 1.2 percent but increases to a staggering 15-22 percent amongst opioid users, likely a direct result of the potentiating effects caused by combination therapy.
“Researchers attribute the recent surge to tighter restrictions on opioid painkillers, which have left doctors nationwide searching for alternatives for their patients,” notes Dr. Howell, an acclaimed physician with over 25 years of clinicalexperience in medicine, public health and addiction who continues to practice at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center’s Department of Addiction Medicine. “Studies have shown that gabapentin prescribing in the United States has increased 49 percent over the past five years resulting in 64 million prescriptions dispensed in 2016.”
Dr. Howell adds that over the past two years in NJ, the presence of gabapentin in post-mortem toxicology reports increased by more than 1,000 percent overall and by more than 3,000 percent in the opioid-use subgroup. Sold under the brand name Neurontin, gabapentin is one of the most prescribed medications in the U.S., ranking ninth over the last year, according to prescription tracker GoodRx.
Communications from Jeffrey D. Laszczyk, Jr, PharmD, BCACP, BCGP, NJ Prescription Monitoring Program Director indicate that the amendments are consistent with the Director’s statutory authority and require pharmacies to transmit information to the NJPMP about each prescription dispensed for gabapentin: “The Director believes that the monitoring of prescriptions issued for gabapentin is warranted in light of growing concerns about the use of gabapentin for purposes other than those authorized under Federal law and the potential side effects associated with the misuse of this medication. Prescribers are encouraged to reference the NJPMP prior to issuing a prescription for gabapentin in order to make the most informed decision relating to treatment.”
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