Neurontin (gabapentin) and Lyrica (pregabalin) are two anticonvulsant and analgesic medications originally prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy. Neurontin was originally licensed in the United States and Canada in December 1993 for use as an adjuvant medication to treat seizures and epilepsy. Lyrica on the other hand, is a much newer drug that received approval for use in the treatment of epilepsy, diabetic neuropathic pain, and postherpetic neuralgia in 2005. It is considered to be a much more powerful version of gabapentin.
In June 2007, Lyrica was approved as a treatment for fibromyalgia. The mechanism of action of these two drugs is still partially unknown to medical science, but they’re thought to be able to reduce the production of some neurotransmitters in the brain that are deemed responsible for pain and convulsions.
Side effects of antiepileptic drugs
According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) do in fact “increase the risk of suicidal thoughts or behavior in patients taking these drugs for any indication. Patients treated with any AED for any indication should be monitored for the emergence or worsening of depression, suicidal thoughts or behavior, and/or any unusual changes in mood or behavior.”
Another serious side effect of antiepileptic drugs is the one found by the researchers of the Stanford University School of Medicine in a recent study. AED may may prevent the formation of new brain synapses, reducing the so-called “brain plasticity.” Brain plasticity is a continuous mechanism that prevents all age-related cognitive decline, meaning that a drug that directly reduce this natural neural activity will cause a faster brain decline.
In other words, these drugs cause brain damage.
However, many doctors won’t inform patients about this risk. Many individuals who take these drugs do not stay on them due to side effects.
Lyrica was the first prescription medication approved to treat fibromyalgia. Because fibromyalgia patients typically do not respond to conventional painkillers like aspirin, Lyrica affects the brain and the perception of pain. Lyrica, known generically as pregabalin, binds to receptors in the brain and spinal cord and seems to reduce activity in the central nervous system.
No one knows exactly how Lyrica works.
Some said that Lyrica does not work well enough to have warranted its FDA approval. According to The New York Times, patients in clinical trials taking Lyrica reported that their pain fell on average about 2 points on a 10-point scale, compared with 1 point for patients taking a placebo. About 30% of patients said their pain decreased by at least half, compared with 15% taking placebos.
In 2004, Lyrica was reviewed by the FDA as a remedy for diabetic nerve pain. The reviewers recommended against approving the drug, citing its side effects. Lyrica causes weight gain, swelling, dizziness and sleepiness. According to the New York Times, in 12-week trials, 9% of patients saw their weight rise more than 7%, and the weight gain appeared to continue over time.
But the FDA ignored the advice of Lyrica reviewers, and approved it anyway. The pharmaceutical corporation creating Lyrica, Pfizer, asked the FDA to expand the approved uses of Lyrica to include the treatment of fibromyalgia, and the agency agreed.
According to the New York Times, worldwide sales of Lyrica reached $1.8 billion in 2007, up 50% from 2006. Analysts predict sales will rise an additional 30% this year, helped by consumer advertising. During the first nine months of 2007, Pfizer spent $46 million on Lyrica ads.
While I welcome anything that will help my fibromyalgia patients, I’m not a big fan of Lyrica. Nor am I fan of Neurontin.
Why? Both have numerous side effects and are potentially dangerous. There are many side effects that are considered “normal” for Lyrica and Neurontin.
The following outlines some of the “common” side effects of Lyrica and Neurontin:
- Experiencing Weight Gain-some gain as much as 40 pounds the first year
- Blurred Vision
- Body Tremors
- Possible Insomnia-complicating an already major problem of fibro
- Gastrointestinal Difficulties, such as Diarrhea and Constipation, IBS-so do you have IBS or is it from the meds?
- Mild to Severe Headaches
- Swelling in Hands
- Dry Mouth
- Swelling in Ankles
- Possible Fainting
- Diffuse Pain-yes these meds can cause diffuse achy muscle pain
- Brain Fog- a common complaint for many with fibro
- Fatigue-again is the medicine contributing to your low energy?
- Balance Issues
In anticipation of the posts or emails I’ll get from those who swear they couldn’t live without these drugs, I understand that they may work for you.
If you KNOW for sure these drugs are helping and nothing else does, then you have my blessing. I’m a realist. You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
While a minority of patients will find these drugs helpful, I’ve found it comes with the price to pay: the side effects above.
How do you know if your fibro symptoms are from fibro or from these drugs?
There is a better way.
Patients who work with me personally find that once I get them on the right combination and dosages of nutrients based off individual tests, my patients can be weaned off these meds and never miss their absence. More often than not, they feel better off of them than while taking them. They report they have less pain and more mental and physical energy.
Can’t be done you say. I have to have my Lyrica, Neurontin, Pain meds, etc.
While my patients initially may feel depend on their prescriptions, I can teach them how to treat their symptoms without using drugs! Testimonials, both in the book and on my site www.yourfibrodoctor.com, confirm that I’ve helped them replace many of their medications with nutritional supplements.
My drugless approach isn’t for everyone and it might not be for you. But it works for those who work with me personally. Drugs don’t make you healthy. They sometimes are your only choice, but they don’t make you healthy. Getting healthy is the only way to feel good again.
I know that some of my patients will need to stay on some of their medications. However, most will not. Those that work with me find that they are able to drastically reduce the number and dose of their medication. They are able to do so because my goal when working with them, as it should be yours, is to get healthy. I want to help you find and fix the underlying causes of your symptoms, not merely reduce them with drugs.
I know it is hard to believe that anyone with fibromyalgia could not only feel good again, but do it through natural medicine-high doses. The right doses and combinations of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids can help improve my patients quality of life.
Some will say that the testimonial success stories I share each week are phony, paid for or they didn’t have fibro in the first place. I’m sorry but there is no way to fake over 80 testimonials on my site and in my book. Each one different, but all share how by working personally with me, and by using proper nutritional therapy and changing their diet, they were able to overcome fibromyalgia.
With over 80 testimonials on my site and in my book, it is easy to see the success I’ve had treating patients. Each testimonial is different, but each story shares the same type of story. By using proper nutritional therapy and changing their diet, they were able to overcome fibromyalgia.
I can’t help those who choose to follow the doom and gloom of conventional medicine, “learn to live with it.”
If you’ve chosen to “learn to live with it,” or have come to the false conclusion that fibro can never be overcome, that once you are diagnosed you’ll never feel good again, then my book and my work isn’t for you.
I know many of you tried numerous things including drug after drug, natural methods, changing your diet, exercise, etc., none worked.
I understand because of this a large portion of the fibro community feels they are doomed for life. I’m trying to change this.
If however, you’ve not given up in your quest to feel good again, my book and protocols are a breath of fresh air, a lifeline for better days ahead.