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Pregabalin and gabapentin to be reclassified as controlled drugs

The drugs will not need to be stored in a safe, the Home Office said
The drugs will not need to be stored in a safe, the Home Office said

Pregabalin and gabapentin will be reclassified as class C controlled substances in April 2019, the Home Office has announced.

The drugs – used to treat anxiety, nerve pain and epilepsy – will be placed in schedule 3 under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001, but will be excluded from the requirement to be stored in a safe, the Home Office said yesterday (October 15).

As controlled drugs, pharmacies will only be able to accept physically-signed prescriptions – rather than electronic copies. Pharmacies must also dispense the drugs within 28 days of the prescription being written, the Home Office stressed.

The decision follows the results of a consultation, which the Home Office launched in November after the Advisory Council on Misuse of Drugs raised concerns.

Victoria Atkins, minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, said: “We accepted expert advice and will now change the law to help prevent misuse of pregabalin.”

Regulations implementing the law change will be laid before parliament tomorrow, ready for the reclassification of both medicines in April 2019, the Home Office added.

Costs of safes “considerable”

The Home Office acknowledged that its original “preferred option” to require reclassified pregabalin and gabapentin to be stored in safes, “would be disproportionate and result in considerable costs, owing to the need to buy and install new controlled drug cabinets in many organisations”.

By removing the “safe custody requirements”, the extra cost for pharmacies to implement the reclassification is “negligible”, as measures would be the same for other medicines such as tramadol, it said.

“It is assumed that it will take health professionals five minutes to acquaint themselves with the new classification of the drugs,” it said.

RPS: “Positive step”

Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni said the reclassification would be regarded as a “positive step” by pharmacists, as the dispensing restrictions are designed to improve patient safety.

“It is likely there will be some reduction in the prescribing of these drugs and pharmacies will need support in managing their stock holding to ensure they meet patient demand, but not end up with significant stocks that go out of date,” Mr Soni said.

“The fact that this is being notified in advance will help with this, but it will be important for all health professionals to be aware of the change and to start to support patients in understanding the changes,” he added.

12 Comments
Question: 
Do you agree this reclassification is a positive step?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I'm happy that they don't have to be kept in a cupboard. Some of those boxes of gabapentin come in a box large enough to get my foot into, and I wear a size 10.

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

We do too!

janet maynard, Community pharmacist

This is Alice in Wonderland! On the same page we have that these drugs can't be sent by EPS and at the same time that we can receive EPS scripts for CDs!!! Of course the pilot will eventually mean all CDs will be EPS!

 

Rashod Mahmood, Locum pharmacist

TIt was best to leave items on green scripts. Less messing around and professionals being the doctors receptionists / secretary. 

The regulations should be set when the drug is released. Why is it going into schedule 3 now that thousands are using it for pain relief. Is it another way to reduce the amount prescribed. Cut down on spending budgets and leave patients without pain relief?

We are supposed to be helping patients not make life difficult for them. 

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Syncing medicines cycles would be a good start towards helping patients in my opinion Rashod, we all have those patients who seem to come in every couple of days with another regular medicine. I'd love to have the ability to sort it out quickly!

Farmer Cyst, Community pharmacist

In my experience patients who come in every few days for a different tablet like it that way as it gives them something to do.

 

There might be the odd heavily confused person you're helping, and it's always a good trick to delay the inevitable blister pack ('Lets try lining your meds up first!') but the numbers who like the increased human contact that comes from dozens of pharmacy visits aren't giving that up easily.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Ah, the frequent fliers of pharmacy. Repeat Dispensing works wonders in these situations. Shame GP Surgeries are still struggling with that concept, in my humble experience.

SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

For goodness sake.... all they needed to do was wait until CD eps was nationally implemented.... not rocket science, but then nothing is ever thought through for pharmacy!

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Isabel, would you be able to find out what the situation is for prescriptions that are part of the London CD prescribing on EPS in regards to these items?

A B, Community pharmacist

Surely by April 2019 doctors will be sending CD scripts by EPS following the current pilot in London. Gets annoying when a patient comes to collect their medication only to find we're waiting for a green copy for something like tramadol, "but the surgery said it was here to collect" is something we hear a lot.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

It's a common story that I could share my own experiences throughout the UK (I get around a lot). GP Surgeries generally do whatever they like when it comes to issuing prescriptions, some people get one month, others six months, others two monthly repeat dispensing batches, all without rhyme or reason.

There certainly needs to be a standardisation of prescribing habits, particularly when it comes to long-term conditions and repeat dispensing. It's embarrassing seeing how mismanaged it actually is.

tushar trivedi, Locum pharmacist

This is yet another example of  botched up consultation process involving pharmacy as profession. In facts nobody gives a toss about pharmacy as profession inspite of caring, kindness, dedication and professionalism demonstrated by people working in the profession. 

 

 

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