Spike in number of Gabapentin prescriptions sparks state action

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Pharmacies across Kentucky started noticing a trend of people needing early re-fills of gabapentin.

Some pharmacists even reported to the state they could see transactions with gabapentin taking place in the pharmacy's parking lot, according to the Executive Director of Kentucky Drug Control Policy Van Ingram.

Gabapentin, Neurontin is the brand name, has been around since 1993. It is made to help with painful nerve diseases and seizures. But lately, it's turned into part of a deadly cocktail. A report by IMS Health said 57 million prescriptions for gabapentin were written in the United States in 2015, a 42 percent increase since 2011.

"I started looking at overdose deaths and thought, 'Wow', this gabapentin is showing up an awful lot," Ingram says.

In 2016, which is the latest report from the Office of Drug Control Policy, gabapentin played a part in 456 overdose deaths. There were just over 1400 total for the year.

Ingram said gabapentin is always mixed with a number of other drugs. It's never used alone in regard to overdose deaths.

"There's another sign that maybe some abuse is going on with this drug because it's mixed in with all these other opioids, like benzodiazepines and other drugs that are more commonly abused," he said.

Kentucky was the first state to make gabapentin a scheduled drug. The Cabinet for Health and Family Services made it a Schedule V drug for the state. This causes the drug to be tracked by the KASPER (Kentucky All-Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting) system.

"We can start to learn more about what's going on with this substance," Ingram said.