Urgent action is needed to stop prescription painkillers associated with a large increase in drug deaths being over-prescribed in the Falkirk area.
That was the warning from a report on Gabapentinoids prescribing in Forth Valley, which reveals the area has the fifth highest rate of prescribing in Scotland, with the numbers still climbing steadily despite the fears.
The Gabapentinoid class of drugs - pregabalin and gabapentin – are often sold for 70p per capsule, although in prison a capsule can change hands for as much as £5 per capsule.
They are successfully used to treat illnesses including shingles and epilepsy but have been increasingly prescribed to treat chronic pain and anxiety.
GPs are now being warned to consider alternatives to the drugs, which were said to have caused 225 drug-related deaths across Scotland in 2016.
The plea for action was taken to the the clinical and care governance committee of the Integrated Join Board, a body that brings together health and social care into one umbrella body.
NHS Forth Valley pharmacist Laura Byrne told the committee that some areas of Falkirk were being prescribed well in excess of the average of 17 DDDs per 1000 list size per day, with Bo’ness and Grangemouth showing 27.21 , Falkirk town 25.56, and Denny and Bonnybridge 23.78.
“It is used for epilepsy and nerve pain, but the numbers of these patients are tiny.
“However, some people are aware of how to describe the symptoms of back pain and anxiety and the GPs are having to prescribe it,” said Ms Byrne.
“This is becoming a public concern – we need to be sure it’s appropriate and that its an effective dose.”
Ms Byrne said the focus now had to be on patients being prescribed very high doses and alternative treatments - including pain review clinics, exercise and signposting to other support - must be included.
She added that Forth Valley NHS had a good track record having successfully tackled a similar problem with benzodiazepines, such as diazepam, recently.
“We need to get all the key stakeholders involved in what we’re trying to do because it’s complex and it will take time.”