Gabapentinoids Prescriptions Grew Twofold in 10 Years


A study found that the total prescriptions for gabapentinoid medications grew from 1.2 million to 3.5 million between 2005-2015.

Researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) Rogel Cancer Center have found that between 2005 and 2015, prescriptions for gabapentinoid medications, mainly gabapentin and pregabalin, saw a twofold increase in adult patients with cancer.

Published in Supportive Care in Cancer, the study examined federal Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data. It presents the first evidence and measurement of a trend in gabapentinoid prescriptions among adults with cancer, according to lead author Alex Fauer, RN, a doctoral student at the U-M School of Nursing.

The study authors were surprised to find that patients aged 18 to 44 years were the largest group in terms of these prescriptions, indicating that physicians are increasing use of these medications, according to the study. The number of adults with cancer who were prescribed gabapentinoids grew from 3.3% in 2005 to 8.3% in 2015, with the total number of prescriptions growing from 1.2 million to 3.5 million in that time.

Gabapentin affects the voltage-gated calcium channels in the brain and was originally approved as an anti-seizure medication and later for nerve pain. According to the study’s press release, researchers have found that up to 95% of its use may be “off-label.”

Fauer explained that the study data likely show a continuation of the trend. Furthermore, the medications’ mechanisms of action and efficacy of pain control, as well as other off-label conditions, need further study

The study’s findings, suggests Fauer, indicates that the health care profession may be underestimating the risks associated with gabapentinoids. This includes the potential for abuse physical dependence, and dangers when taken in combination with opioids and other medications.


  • Gabapentinoids Appear Increasingly to be Prescribed, Off-Label, for Cancer Pain [press release]. University of Michigan Health Lab website. Published October 28, 2019. Accessed October 31, 2019.

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