Waxing Lyrical Over Lyrica
Pfizer’s Lyrica (pregabalin) was the first medication ever approved by the USFDA for fibromyalgia. The anticonvulsant drug was developed to treat both partial seizures as are seen in temporal lobe epilepsy and neuropathic pain. The drug is also useful for spinal cord injuries. In Europe, doctors prescribe pregabalin as a medication for treating generalized anxiety disorder. The drug received first approval in Europe in the year 2004 and in the States in 2005.
In the United States, Lyrica has received approval as a medication that may be prescribed to treat epilepsy, diabetic nerve pain (neuropathy), and painful shingles (post-herpetic neuralgia). The FDA decided to approve the drug as a treatment for fibromyalgia as well, in 2007. Fibromyalgia manifests as widespread joint and muscle pain. The merest touch can cause excruciating pain in fibromyalgia sufferers.
In 2009, a subsidiary of Pfizer pleaded guilty to the charge of mischaracterizing Lyrica and three other drugs, with intent to mislead consumers. By illegal promotion of the drugs, false claims were submitted to government healthcare programs for use of the drugs in ways not medically sanctioned. Pfizer made a settlement of $2.3 billion and signed a corporate integrity agreement.
No drug is free of side effects, and Lyrica is no exception. About 10% of patients treated with the drug experience dizziness or drowsiness. A somewhat smaller number of patients report problems with vision, coordination, speech, tremors, memory, lethargy, weight gain, constipation, euphoria, erectile dysfunction, swelling of the ankles, legs, and feet, and loss of libido. Fewer than 1% of those on pregabalin experience kidney stones, urinary problems, joint and muscle pain, cramped muscles, rashes, reddened skin, sweating, excessive salivation, an increase in heart rate, change in sensitivity response to touch, twitching muscles, hallucinations, agitation, confusion, or depression.
A smaller number of patients on the medication, fewer than 0.1%, find themselves with low neutrophil counts—these are a type of white blood cell, changes in blood pressure, pancreatic inflammation, heart block, cessation of urine production, skeletal muscle tissue breakdown, and difficulty swallowing.
There is a very low likelihood of developing a dependence of pregabalin. Those who experience withdrawal symptoms, often do so after having been treated with the drug for a lengthy period of time. Symptoms of withdrawal include anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. While it is rare for a patient to experience dependence on Lyrica, it’s best to reduce the dosage of pregabalin on a gradual basis.
Pfizer says there are some dangerous drug interactions that can occur with Lyrica, in particular with these drugs and substances: