Community pharmacies might have to pay more to store pregabalin and gabapentin drugs under new controlled drug plans.

The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) recommended that the two drugs be controlled under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 as Class C substances.

Under the three options envisaged by the Home Office, community pharmacies would have to provide ‘additional safes’ for storage of the substances.

Harmful drugs

Pregabalin and gabapentin are anti-convulsant drugs, frequently prescribed to treat disabling long-term conditions, such as epilepsy, neuropathic pain and anxiety disorder.

If the two drugs have potential benefits for patients, misuse can cause physical dependencies, depression to the central nervous system and death.

In 2016, there were 170 deaths due to pregabalin and gabapentin in England and Wales, 106 more than in 2014.

With around 12 million prescriptions in 2016, the Government wants to discourage over-prescribing and limit access to the two drugs.

Proposals' benefits 

The Home Office impact assessment document said: ‘The expected harm reduction is likely to have savings on the health-service in terms of reduced costs for treating those suffering harms from pregabalin and gabapentin as a result of the greater protection against diversion owing to the safe custody requirements.’

NHS England recommends that ‘patients who are offered these drugs need to have sufficient information to consent to the treatment plan’.

It said: ‘Less harmful, alternative drugs can often be first-line treatments for the indicated conditions for which pregabalin and gabapentin are now used, and may be tried preferentially in higher risk settings or in patients who may be more likely to be harmed by the drugs.’

The Home Office is consulting on the proposals until January 2018.