May 16, 2019

Widespread Off-Label Use of Epilepsy Medications Could Put Some Patients at Risk

The off-label pervasive use of a type of anticonvulsant originally marketed to treat epilepsy – called gabapentinoids – could place some patients at risk, according to a new study led by a team at the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and published on May 10th in the Journal of Hospital Medicine. These findings could have important clinical implications, as gabapentinoids, initially intended to treat epilepsy, are now commonly prescribed as a pain killer to the general population, including to elderly patients with multiple conditions. The study found that one in eight adults admitted to a hospital in Quebec had been prescribed the drug as part of their usual home medications.

“In certain cases, some patients may derive benefit from the off-label use of gabapentinoids, but the public also needs to know about their possible harms. This class of medications is becoming increasingly common, despite very little evidence that it helps with pain, and despite evidence that the medications increase the risk of falls, fractures and memory impairment,” says senior author Dr. Emily G. McDonald, a physician in General Internal Medicine at the MUHC and an assistant professor of Medicine at McGill University, as well as a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC).

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