The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued a troubling new warning about popular nerve pain medications – saying the drugs could cause severe breathing problems and even death.
The FDA released the warning on Thursday for the medications gabapentin and pregabalin.
The drugs are used to treat pain caused by several conditions including seizures, nerve pain after surgery, shingles, and diabetes.
They are also used to help patients diagnosed with fibromyalgia and restless legs syndrome.
Federal health officials are warning that when these medications are combined with opioids or other drugs they could trigger a potentially fatal loss of lung function.
“Our evaluation shows that the use of these medicines, often referred to as gabapentinoids, has been growing for prescribed medical use, as well as misuse and abuse,” FDA officials said in their release.
“Gabapentinoids are often being combined with CNS depressants (opioids), which increases the risk of respiratory depression.”
The FDA says they saw nearly 50 cases of breathing problems linked to gabapentin or pregabalin over a five-year study – 12 of those patients died from breathing complications.
Health officials added that they saw fewer risks when nerve pain medications were taken alone.
These drugs are prescribed and sold under several different names including Neurontin, Gralise, Horizant, and Lyrica.