Surgery patients are often prescribed opioid drugs for pain. In an effort to lower the dose of opioids, doctors often prescribe other drugs in combination with opioids to treat surgical pain.
A class of drugs promoted for use with opioids to treat surgical pain is neurologics. Neurologics act upon the nervous system, and are used for a wide variety of neurologic conditions, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and fibromyalgia. Over the past decade, doctors have increasingly prescribed neurologic drugs called gabapentinoids along with opioids to treat pain from surgery. Popular brands of gabapentinoids include Lyrica (pregabalin) and Neurontin, Gralise, and Horizant (gabapentin.)
Scientific studies have shown that combining gabapentinoids with an opioid for surgical pain increases the risk of serious medical complications. In particular, severe, and even deadly, breathing problems have developed when Lyrica, Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant or other gabapentinoids have been combined with opioids to treat pain from surgery.
In addition, non-surgical patients who have pre-existing respiratory conditions, such as COPD, are also at risk of severe breathing complications or death if prescribed Lyrica, Neurontin, or other gabapentinoids.
In December 2019, the FDA issued an urgent Drug Safety Communication warning that “serious breathing difficulties may occur in patients using gabapentin (Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant) or pregabalin (Lyrica, Lyrica CR) who have respiratory risk factors. These include the use of opioid pain medicines[.]” The FDA then specifically warned doctors that pairing an opioid with drugs like Lyrica and Neurontin increases the risk of respiratory depression. The FDA revealed that it had received at least 49 reports of people suffering breathing difficulties while taking gabapentinoids. Twelve of these individuals died.
The FDA’s warnings are consistent with the results of numerous scientific studies, including studies released in December 2019 and February 2020. Both of these recent studies found that the use of drugs like Lyrica and Neurontin with opioids during and after surgery was associated with significantly higher risks of post-operative breathing problems.
WATCH FOR THESE SYMPTOMS:
According to the FDA, seek immediate medical care if you or a loved one have any of the following symptoms after taking Lyrica, Neurontin, or any other gabapentinoid:
- Confusion or disorientation
- Unusual dizziness or lightheadedness
- Extreme sleepiness or lethargy
- Slowed, shallow, or difficult breathing
- Unresponsiveness, which means a person doesn’t answer or react normally or you can’t wake them up
- Bluish-colored or tinted skin, especially on the lips, fingers, and toes
HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF I WAS PRESCRIBED LYRICA OR NEURONTIN?
To find out whether you were taking Lyrica, Neurontin, or any other gabapentinoid, the first place to check is your prescription records.
If you think you may have been given Lyrica or Neurontin during surgery, you will need to look in your hospital records.
Click here to learn how to collect copies of your medical records.
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