NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – 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.

Comments (31)
  1. Garry says:

    Been on Lryca for 6 months no problem 100mg a day can swim run etc

  2. mel says:

    Im from the UK. I am on Pregabalin for epilepsy I have been for over 9 years no issues

  3. tracy says:

    i had surgery, spine, and was taking percocets and gabipenton and ended back in the hospital 1 day after i got out from swelling in my neck face and throat, , then, when i got out, i was still told to take them, im no dr. so of course i did what the dr said.. iv woke every morning with my ubula swelled,, im woke from some snoring crap ive never done, and it fells very hard to catch my breath.. this is awful to hear about the drugs, but im glad i know,, i will stop the opioids, and only take the gabipinton for the nerve pain i currently still have,, geesh,, i hope im ok,, dont we all hope that.. its scarey.

  4. Shirley says:

    I ended up in the hospital and this was my problem. Once in the ER for 10 1/2 hours. It was all due to this poison.

  5. Patricia ONeill says:

    Yet these Dr.s would rather you take these type of drugs than prescribe a pain med like Lortab or Percocet which have less side effects if taken responsibly. Addiction mostly comes from over abusing!

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  7. Beverley king says:

    I’ve been on these gabapantin 300mg 3 X daily for 5 years I’ve had serious breathing problems c.o.p.d now recently had pluracy on both lungs and a few weeks ago I was told I had fluid on my lungs couldn’t breathe had so many admissions to hospital I have stopped taking the five days ago as have had lots of trouble with my breathing and lungs

  8. Kathy Caudle says:

    what the article does not say is the dosing of the opioids or pother meds that place someone at risk.

  9. Jan Nitchman says:

    My husbands breathing has gone downhill!! I noticed his heart rate jumping up when he was walking. He would walk 30 feet and had to stop.. NEVER a smoker. When I saw the warning I demanded him to stop taking them. That God he stopped. My had been taking them for a long time, several years.

  10. Jackie Clark says:

    I have been having breathing problems for several year now and the doctor have been running of kinds of test to see what is causing it but they have not found anything yet. I was prescribed this after failed back surgeries that left me with nerve damage in my right leg. I think this might be where my problem is coming from. The problem all started after my back surgery when I was put on this medication. I have always though it may be drug related but none of the doctors never have said this medication could cause this.

  11. Random Person says:

    I’m on 100mg Pregabalin three times a day, 2mg Klonopin, and 12mg Tizanidine. Every night I have the thought, It’s a crap shoot if I wake up in the morning. Especially with this upper respiratory thing I’ve had for a couple of weeks. I’m also prescribed 5mg Ambien, but I don’t take it. That would probably put me over the edge. Breathing is fun.

  12. Scott says:

    Sensational and misleading headline! Read the article… “ Health officials added that they saw fewer risks when nerve pain medications were taken alone.” It’s only when taken with other opioids that have the potential for negative affects.

    1. Georganne says:

      Scott I have a pain pump due to a very bad back and epilepsy. I can’t avoid taking the combination of the two types of drugs. And there are many others like me.

  13. Dina Burdeshaw says:

    Without Neurontin I would be in a wheelchair. I have neuropathy due to diabetes and was walking with a cane prior to being given Neurontin. I had taken it for about 2 weeks and woke up one morning and realized I could walk without the cane and my legs were no longer numb. Even missing one morning dose, my left leg gets numb (had a stroke on left side in 2000) and it is extremely miserable until I can take my med.

  14. Julie Poteat says:

    Virtually any drug has the potential to do harm. We are each unique, and when in pain, of course we want a solution. Many illnesses are chronic, some going hand-in-hand with other ailments. No one has a magic pill, and no one else can feel another’s pain. The best we can expect is to be educated as to the side effects of any meds or supplements and weigh that against living with the illness or ailment. I think the majority of doctors do the best they can, and are held to an impossible task of “fixing” everything that can and will happen to their patients.

  15. margaret hulton says:

    well now i dont know if i should be taking m lyrica and or morphine, also on a strong muscle relaxer, im not a smoker but feel like ive smoked a pack of cigs or have a bad cold

  16. Georganne says:

    I’m on Neurontin, Lyrica and Vimpat for Epilepsy along with a Dilaudid pain pump for a bad back. I can’t give up any of it. I don’t know if my breathing problems are due to the medications or a history of smoking.

  17. Paula Warren says:

    I have been on Lyrica for what seems like forever. It is the only thing on the market that helps my fibromyalgia and RA I would be useless without it. I am in good health otherwise and have never had a problem, Years ago I was on Vioxx and it was wonderful for my pain but several heart cases were linked to the drug and it was taken off the market. I think doctors have to take into consideration the other health problems some patients have and not prescribe it. Vioxx was wonderful for my RA. Heaven help me if Lyrica is taken off the market..

    1. Christina Garner says:

      Shame on your Dr for not digging into the cause, and giving you a kill pill that wont help you. Pain is your bodys way of telling you something is wrong, why would you think turning off your body’s “voice” is the answer?? DETOX DETOX DETOX , bring down inflammation, and address deficiencies,…

      1. Pat Bright says:

        Ever been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia or RA?

        MAYBE you should rethink your criticism and offer suggestions. 🤭

        1. Sue says:

          Christina, try having Trigeminal Neuralgia. It’s been nicknamed the suicide disease. I’m on a strict anti-inflammation diet and take all the right supplements. I’m still sitting in the corner, rocking and sobbing at times.

        2. Sue says:

          Please note that this article is pointing out the link between meds for neuropathy *and* opiodes.

  18. Mary A Good says:

    I have taken Lyrica for many years with no problems at all. 50
    cases in all of the U.S. and the FDA is worried. They should worry more about the air we breath and the water that is being polluted daily.

  19. Jenna says:

    I was on metoprolol, a bp med, for my heart palpitations when my Dr put me on Lyrica. I was to increase to 3 a day, but I never got past 1 and my ex thought they would kill me because I walked around like a zombie. I stopped using them after a month!

  20. Joanne Lohuis says:

    Weirdly, my vet JUST prescribed this for my dog. He developed breathing problems immediately so I took him off. He recovered in days. Hoping no real damage was done.

  21. frankg2 says:

    Just like baby aspirin causes blindness and THC causes schizophrenia and impotence. This consisted of a limited number of cases involving off-label usage combined with heavy opioid abuse. I think I’ll wait for more definitive data to come in.

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  23. Dawn Szabo says:

    My mother died in 2017. She was on Gabopentin, Fentanyl, Dilodid(spelling?) and other pain medications, as well as Lyrica. She was on oxygen 24/7, had COPD and had severe breathing problems and digestive problems, severe arthritis and became addicted to the opioids she had to take to attempt to manage her pain, which was fruitless. She sufferered horribly. I wonder if the Gabopentin did more harm than good or adding the opioids contributed to more problems with her breathing than just the COPD. It just seemed the oxygen wasnt enough some days…I remember watching her suffer so much for 5 years.

    1. Allison says:

      That many narcotics is very dangerous especially if she was still self administering them. I know with my dad and his brain cancer, he was taking so many meds for pain and when it wouldn’t get rid of it he would take more. We had to start administering them ourselves to make sure he didn’t over do it. Any narcotic has the chance to slow respiration’s and added with copd I’m sure it didn’t help. I’m so sorry you lost your mom and she suffered so.

  24. Coupland says:

    I was on Lyrica for years to but my doctor here in Australia took me off them now l no way. Thanks for sharing this information. Judith and Phil My husband was also on this two different strengths.

  25. Suzanne Marie Townend says:

    Wow!!! I have a bad breathing problem right now and I have been taking Lyrica for a few years now. I am also a heart patient and thought it was linked to my heart, but now hard to say. Thank you for pointing this out.

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