Update to the Misuse of Drug Act: Changes to Pregabalin and Gabapentin

As providers of drug analysis services to UK police forces and the criminal justice system, SOCOTEC outlines the amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act and the implications.

What’s changed?

The amendment to the Misuse of Drugs Act by Statutory Instrument 1356 has come into force on 1 April 2019, bringing Pregabalin and Gabapentin under control.  At present, these are prescription-only medications being used to treat a number of medical conditions, including epilepsy, anxiety disorders and nerve pain.

Pregabalin and Gabapentin have now been reclassified as controlled medicines under the Misuse of Drug Acts, which “affects the extent of which the drugs can be lawfully imported, exported, produced, supplied or possessed and dictates the record keeping, labelling and destruction requirements in relation to that drug.” As a result, this will mean stricter enforcement, dispensing protocols and legal controls to mitigate substance abuse and misuse.

Why the change?

In recent years, the Government has reported an increase in the number of deaths related to Pregabalin and Gabapentin. With evidence of potential harm as a result of substance abuse, the legal controls being put into place aims to restrict illicit supply.

What is the impact for law enforcement?

In the Impact Assessment, it describes the monetised costs of affected groups. For police forces and law enforcement agencies, the penalties which will now be given to supply and production, as well as illegal possession, may also incur costs. More information on the impact on the voluntary sector and the public sector can be accessed on the legislation.gov.uk website.

What is the impact for patients?

Possessing Pregabalin and Gabapentin requires a prescription, and prescriptions must now state the required dose, date of issue, address of prescriber, formulation, strength and total dosage unit. 

A number of other changes have been made to the dispensing of these substances, to limit emergency supply requests and the quantity supplied at any given time to ensure the drugs are used for the medicinal purposes. The NHS has issued guidance on the rescheduling of Gabapentin and Pregabalin as Schedule 3 controlled drugs.

Identifying and analysis of drugs

With psychoactive substances continuing to be a significant issue across the UK, the authorities rely on the knowledge of toxicology experts and laboratory drug analysis to identify materials as quickly as possible after they are discovered.

Forensics labs, like those at SOCOTEC, often have to test a range of drugs and other suspicious substances to determine what they are. Our key drug analysis services includes the examination, identification and quantification of solid drugs as well as supply chain investigation to compare the drug wraps and/or packaging to show a chain of supply.