Epilepsy medicines pregabalin and gabapentin will be reclassified as controlled medicines under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 from 1 April 2019, NHS England has said.
This means there will be stricter legal controls over these medicines to prevent them from being misused, causing harm or being sourced illegally.
Doctors can still prescribe pregabalin and gabapentin to people who need them. However, NHS England has explained there will be some changes to the rules around their prescription.
Only a 30 days’ supply will be allowed on one prescription. People will need to request repeat prescriptions from their GP each month and pick up their medicines within 28 days of the date on the prescription.
NHS England explains GP practices that don’t use the electronic prescription service for controlled drugs may not be able to send electronic prescriptions for these medicines to the pharmacy. People will need to go to the GP to collect their prescription in person. If they can’t, a representative can also be set up through their GP practice, who can do this in their place.
The person picking up the prescription will need to show proof of ID and sign for their medicines at the pharmacy. NHS England advises that if people run out or need an emergency supply of pregabalin or gabapentin, they will need to contact their GP’s out-of-hours service.
Existing prescriptions for pregabalin or gabapentin need to be collected before 1 April, NHS England says.
The government announced its plans to make the change to the classification of pregabalin and gabapentin in October 2018. The decision followed concerns raised by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs over the potential for misuse of or addiction to these medicines. Misuse could include taking the medicines without having a prescription or taking them in a way that is not prescribed by a doctor.
They will now be a Class C controlled substance. This is the third in the government’s three-tier categorising system. Substances in class C are associated with the least amount of harm compared with those in classes A or B.
Other controlled medicines used for epilepsy include the emergency medicines midazolam and diazepam.
If you are concerned about your medicines, you can speak to your GP or epilepsy specialist. You can also call the Epilepsy Action Helpline on 0808 800 5050.