Many psychiatric patients getting risky drug gabapentin ‘off-label’

Many psychiatric patients getting risky drug gabapentin 'off-label'

More than 99% of prescriptions for gabapentin analyzed by researchers were for off-label uses of the drug. File Photo by Tasique/Shutterstock

Most prescriptions for the medication gabapentin are for unapproved uses — and many patients end up taking it along with drugs that create potentially dangerous interactions.

That’s the conclusion of a new study that looked at “off-label” use of gabapentin. In the United States, the drug is officially approved for treating certain seizures and some forms of nerve pain.

It’s known, however, that gabapentin is commonly prescribed for other uses, including various types of pain conditions and psychiatric disorders like depression and anxiety.

The new study highlights just how widespread that off-label use is: Of almost 130 million outpatient visits where gabapentin was prescribed, more than 99% were for off-label uses.

“We anticipated there’d be a lot of off-label use,” said senior researcher Amie Goodin, an assistant professor at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy.

Even so, she said, it was surprising to see the magnitude of that use.

And one-third of the time, patients prescribed gabapentin off-label were also on a medication that can depress the central nervous system.

That’s a concern because in 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about combining gabapentin with central nervous system, or CNS, depressants, saying sedation and serious breathing problems can result.

The warning was particularly aimed at people with ris

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