Objective: To compare changes in pregabalin prescribing and misuse-related ambulance attendances; to characterise the patients attended by paramedics for pregabalin misuse-related harms; to assess the association of pregabalin misuse with use of other sedatives and with suicidal ideation and self-harm; to compare the characteristics of pregabalin misuse-related harms in people who misuse pregabalin according to whether or not they also used other sedatives.
Design, setting, participants: Retrospective analysis of data on ambulance attendances in Victoria, January 2012 - December 2017, for which pregabalin misuse-related harms were a contributing factor.
Main outcome measures: Rates of pregabalin misuse-related ambulance attendances, pregabalin prescription rates (each 6-monthly); patient characteristics, including age, sex, history of drug misuse or psychiatric problems, concurrent use of other sedatives, and current suicidal ideation and self-harm.
Results: There were 1201 pregabalin misuse-related attendances during the study period; the rate increased from 0.28 cases per 100 000 population in the first half of 2012 to 3.32 cases per 100 000 in the second half of 2017. The attendance rate was strongly correlated with prescription rates in Australia (r = 0.90; P = 0.001). 593 attendances (49%) were for people with a history that may have contraindicated prescribing pregabalin. Pregabalin was frequently misused with other sedatives (812 attendances, 68%), particularly benzodiazepines (440, 37%); 472 attendances (39%) were associated with suicide attempts. People who misused pregabalin with other sedatives more frequently presented with moderate to severe impairments of consciousness, but the frequency of suicide attempts was similar whether other sedatives were concurrently used or not.
Conclusions: Rates of pregabalin misuse-related ambulance attendances in Victoria have increased markedly over the past 6 years. Caution is required when prescribing pregabalin for people taking other sedatives. Limiting the dispensing of this drug may reduce the risks associated with its misuse.
Keywords: Anticonvulsants; Drug overdose; Public health; Self-Injurious behavior; Substance-related disorders; Suicide.
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