Short and long-term symptoms you shouldn’t ignore if you’ve taken Lyrica recently
Lyrica, the brand name for pregabalin, is an antiepileptic drug (also known as “anticonvulsant”) intended to help treat peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes or other types of nerve pain like shingles, spinal cord injury, nerve pain, postherpetic neuralgia, partial onset seizures in epileptic adults, and fibromyalgia.
Those are the conditions approved by the Food and Drug Administration, anyway. However, Lyrica is also prescribed by doctors for off-label conditions like anxiety, pain from osteoarthritis, and chronic low back pain.
Common Lyrica side effects
Doctors warn patients that they might experience some variety of the following symptoms after taking Lyrica:
- Loss of balance or coordination
- Dry mouth
- Breast swelling
- Blurry vision
- Weight gain
- Memory or concentration problems
These side effects (drowsiness, in particular) may increase if the patient consumes alcohol or drugs in conjunction with their Lyrica regimen.
More serious side effects that have been reported with Lyrica include, but are not limited to:
- Allergic reactions (difficulty breathing or swelling of face, lips, tongue or throat)
- Mood and behavior changes
- Panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping
- Hyperactivity (both mental and physical)
- Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm
- Muscle pain, weakness or tenderness
- Vision problems
- Easy bleeding or bruising
- Swelling in hands or feet
- Rapid weight gain
Why is Lyrica prescribed for so many conditions?
Gabapentinoids, the class of medication to which Lyrica belongs, are increasingly being prescribed for conditions that they’re not approved to treat. This is thought to be a reflex to the growing opioid epidemic; doctors avoid prescribing opioids by offering gabapentinoids, instead. Lyrica and other gabapentinoids are offered as a first-line treatment when lesser interventions don’t work.
Sadly, this doesn’t reduce the potential for abuse, as discovered in random urine tests.
One in five patients found to be taking Gabapentin, a similar medication to Lyrica, were doing so without a prescription. Pfizer, which manufactures both Neurontin (the brand name for gabapentin) and Lyrica, has paid billions of dollars in fines to the FDA for illegal marketing activities. According to the U.S. Justice Department, a case over four Pfizer drugs for illegal marketing led to the biggest fine in American history‚ for any legal matter, not just drug violations. In the end, the pharmaceutical giant was forced to pay $2.3 billion.
Using Lyrica without a prescription can lead to psychedelic highs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency classifies it as Schedule V, so it’s easier to obtain a prescription because it’s considered to have a lower potential for abuse. It operates on both the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopaminergic reward systems in the body, which can create euphoria, sedation, marijuana-like highs, and dissociative effects.
Physicians have lowered their thresholds for prescribing drugs like these because more patients are experiencing non-cancer pain that would otherwise be treated with opioids. In today’s medical climate, doctors are wary of prescribing too many opioids, which has led to an increase in gabapentinoid prescriptions. There are few other options, and when NSAIDs or acetaminophen don’t achieve the desired results, gabapentinoids are typically the next step.
Marketing practices don’t help this situation either, as manufacturers conduct massive campaigns to reach the ears and eyes of patients and their doctors. As of 2016, pregabalin was the 10th most prescribed medication in the United States, which translated to 64 million prescriptions. That was an increase of 39 million from 2012.
Some physicians are concerned with this development for the following reasons:
- While scientific evidence supports the efficacy of some drugs for off-label uses, this hasn’t been the case for gabapentinoids. Researchers found that clinical studies of gabapentinoids for pain control only examined the mitigation of postoperative pain, which isn’t pain that the general population experiences. Lyrica is most often prescribed for common, everyday pain, which hasn’t been fully studied. For instance, a placebo-controlled trial showed that pregabalin was ineffective for sciatica patients. There were also limited evidence in studies of its efficacy for chronic low back pain.
- Pregabalin has nontrivial side effects, such as dizziness and sedation. Up to 40% of patients taking this drug reported dizziness, compared to 13% on a placebo regimen. Since gabapentinoids are often prescribed with other medications that affect the central nervous system, these side effects can be intensified.
- Patients misuse and abuse pregabalin and gabapentin. Withdrawal often occurs after doses are stopped.
- Indiscriminate off-label use reinforces the viewing of pain as something that can be solved by medication when patients should focus on other interventions.
Since gabapentinoids are touted as the “safer” alternative to opioids, this trend is likely to continue. Additionally, the American Pain Society recommended that gabapentin be considered for post-operative pain relief, which doesn’t help the majority of patients. This was endorsed by the American Society for Regional Anaesthesia.
What to do if you think Lyrica is causing side effects
If you’ve been affected by Lyrica and are suffering side effects, you should first speak to your doctor. Then, talk to an attorney who handles bad drug lawsuits. He or she can advise you as to possible courses of legal action and determine whether you can recover damages.
How do you hire the right lawyer? Start by reading the following articles and using this handy personal injury attorney interview sheet.
Also be sure to read the following articles for more information:
- Negotiating lawyers fees - how do accident lawyers charge? Are there any hidden costs?
- Preparing to meet with a personal injury attorney
- How damages are calculated