Drugs will be subject to prescription writing requirements
Pregabalin and gabapentin will be reclassified to Schedule 3 from 1 April 2019, the Veterinary Medicines Directorate has confirmed.
The move comes after experts highlighted increasing numbers of fatalities linked to the drugs, which are used to treat nerve pain, epilepsy and anxiety. The change means it will be illegal to possess pregabalin and gabapentin without a prescription and it will be illegal to supply or sell the drugs to others.
Concerns about the drugs were first raised in 2016 by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD). The group recommended that pregabalin and gabapentin should be controlled as class C Drugs under the Misuse of Drugs Act.
On accepting the advice, the government launched a public consultation to assess the impact on the healthcare sector. Doctors, drug firms, pharmacies and patients all responded to the consultation supporting tighter controls.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said: “Any death related to the misuse of drugs is a tragedy. We accepted expert advice and will now change the law to help prevent misuse of pregabalin and gabapentin and addiction to them.
“While drug misuse is lower now than it was 10 years ago, we remain committed to reducing it and the harm it causes. That is why we have published a comprehensive strategy to tackle the illicit drug trade, protect the most vulnerable and help those with drug dependency to recover and turn their lives around.”
From 1 April 2019 Pregabalin and gabapentin will be exempt from safe custody requirements and will be subject to prescription writing requirements. Furthermore, the drugs must be dispensed with 28 days of the prescription being written.