Trends in Gabapentin and Pregabalin Prescribing in a Tertiary Pediatric Medical Center

Hosp Pediatr. 2021 Jul 13;hpeds.2020-003582. doi: 10.1542/hpeds.2020-003582. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: Analgesic medications are commonly prescribed in pediatrics, with prescribing practices frequently extrapolated from adult trials. Gabapentinoids (gabapentin and pregabalin) are widely used as analgesics but are labeled in pediatrics only for epilepsy. We aim to (1) define trends in pediatric gabapentinoid prescribing (label and off-label) over 7 years, and (2) evaluate use in chronic pain clinic (CPC) patients during 2018.

Methods: Retrospective data from a tertiary-care pediatric hospital were collected between 2013 and 2019. Annual numbers of gabapentinoid prescriptions were stratified by prescriber specialty. Additional information about gabapentinoid prescribing in the CPC was manually collected from initial clinic notes in 2018.

Results: There were 15 808 outpatient prescriptions for gabapentinoids among 5172 patients over 7 years. Of these, 93% were gabapentin and 7% were pregabalin. Numbers of patients receiving gabapentin and pregabalin prescriptions increased by 1.4- and 1.3-fold, respectively, between 2013 and 2019. Few prescriptions were done for patients with a previous epilepsy diagnosis (in 2019, 16% for gabapentin and 13% for pregabalin). Approximately 28% of 650 CPC new patients were prescribed gabapentin or pregabalin before referral. Among those, 44% had discontinued the medication because of adverse events (35%), inefficacy (46%), or both (5%). Most side effects reported were mild to moderate. Diagnoses at first visit were diverse, not limited to neuropathic pain conditions, and did not differ between patients receiving or not receiving gabapentinoid prescriptions.

Conclusions: In our hospital, gabapentinoids are commonly prescribed off-label for diverse indications, including chronic pain. Future research is needed to evaluate gabapentinoid efficacy in these indications.