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Pregabalin: Spending on 'new valium' greater in north

From BBC - October 11, 2017

Prescribing rates for a valium-like drug linked to 111 deaths in a year vary widely across England, BBC analysis suggests.

Monthly spending on prescriptions containing pregabalin was 88% higher in the North East and 83% higher in the North West than in London.

Experts say there needs to be more research into why the disparities exist.

The Home Office intends to make the drug a Class C controlled substance.

GPs prescribe pregabalin to treat nerve pain, anxiety and epilepsy.But there are concerns it is being sold illegally to addicts and taken with other drugs such as heroin, leading to overdoes.

Analysis of open prescriptions data reveals:

Roz Gittins, chief pharmacist of the charity Addaction, said: "There needs to be a better understanding of why these regional differences exist.

"And there needs to be a better awareness that pregablin is liable to misuse. This is an area where prescribers and pharmacy staff have to be particularly vigilant."

According to the Office for National Statistics there were 111 deaths in England and Wales in 2016 where pregablin was mentioned on the death certificate, up from four in 2012.

'They just totally destroy me'

Use of the drug, which has been compared to valium, has also grown significantly while the cost of prescribing it has dropped from about 100 a time to about 4. It has also ended up on the black market.

In a letter to the Home Office in 2016, Professor Les Iverson of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) said pregabalin had a high "abuse potential" due to its "rapid absorption and faster onset of action and higher potency".

He said it causes a high or elevated mood in users, with side effects including "chest pain, wheezing, vision changes and less commonly, hallucinations".

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