Hastings and Rother has seen the largest rise in prescriptions of the painkiller gabapentin across England, according to a report by the BBC.
Prescriptions of the drug, which is used to treat epilepsy but is also taken for nerve pain, rose by an average of 61 per cent in England between 2014 and 2018, the BBC found.
However, in Hastings and Rother, prescriptions rose by 132 per cent – the biggest rise across the country, according to the BBC findings.
The drug, along with another common painkiller pregabalin, was reclassified as a Class C controlled substance on April 1 after experts highlighted the rising numbers of fatalities linked to the drugs.
The latest available figures show that, between 2013 and 2017, there were 572 deaths linked to pregabalin and gabapentin in England, according to the BBC.
Commenting on the rise in gabapentin prescriptions in the area, a spokesman for the NHS Hastings and Rother CCG said looking at the growth of gabapentin in isolation was ‘misleading’.
New prescribing guidelines for pain management were developed by the CCG in 2015 in an effort to reduce the high levels of default prescribing of pregabalin.
Individual reviews were offered to people taking these medicines, the CCG spokesman said.
Gabapentin is now used preferentially as the agent of choice to treat neuropathic pain as an alternative to pregablin, the spokesman said.
So while prescriptions of gabapentin have increased, the growth of pregabalin prescribing in Hastings and Rother CCG over the same period is 26 per cent – compared to national growth in prescribing of 71 per cent.
Combining both pregabalin and gabapentin, the rise in prescriptions is 66 per cent in Hastings and Rother – only eight per cent above the national rise of 58 per cent.
The CCG spokesman said: “Our CCGs are committed to reducing inappropriate variation in prescribing and continue to work with GPs, consultants and substance misuse services to improve the quality of prescribing for pain management.”
Prescribers are advised to discuss the risks and benefits of the treatment with patients before commencing a trial of these medicines, the spokesman confirmed.
The CCG was ‘not aware of any deaths’ linked to gabapentin in the area – though admitted this was not necessarily data that a CCG would hold.
The reclassification of both drugs as Schedule 3 Controlled Drug, applies more controls on the prescribing of these medicines and reduces the risk of them being used inappropriately, the spokesman said.