Neurontin is a brand name for gabapentin, a prescription medicine that helps control some types of epileptic seizures. While Neurontin doesn’t cure epilepsy, it helps control seizures for as long as a patient continues to take it. The medication is also prescribed to manage postherpetic neuralgia, the painful after-effects of "shingles." Shingles are an outbreak of rash or blisters on the skin. Neurontin is manufactured by Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1993.
On January 31, 2008, the FDA issued a warning about an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in patients who take drugs called antiepileptics to treat epilepsy, bipolar disorder, migraine headaches, and other conditions. FDA analysis of recent studies showed patients taking antiepileptics had about twice the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, compared with patients receiving placebo. A number of lawsuits have been filed alleging that Neurontin causes suicidality, and that Pfizer Pharmaceuticals failed to disclose the risks. Although Pfizer denies that there’s any scientific evidence linking Neurontin to suicide, it changed the prescribing information to include "suicide" and "suicide attempt" as infrequent adverse events.
Pfizer and its subsidiaries have been subject to several lawsuits alleging the illegal and fraudulent promotion of unapproved uses for Neurotonin. In 2004 Warner-Lambert, a subsidiary, plead guilty and paid more than $430 million to resolve criminal charges and civil liability. In June 2014, Pfizer agreed to pay $325 million to settle another lawsuit for illegal Neruontin promotion.
The follow precautions should be observed before, while, and after taking Neurontin:
- During the first few months of treatment, make certain to check your progress at regular visits with your healthcare provider, to allow for dose adjustments and the reduction of any unwanted side effects.
- If you’re thinking about stopping Neurontin use, talk to your doctor about gradually reducing your dose before stopping it completely because a sudden stop may cause seizures to return or to occur more often.
- Make sure you know how you react to Neurontin before you drive, use machines, or perform any activity that requires alertness, good coordination, or the ability to think and see well. Neurontin may cause blurred or double vision, clumsiness, unsteadiness, dizziness, drowsiness, or trouble thinking.
- If you’re planning to undergo medical testing, make certain your attending physician knows you are taking Neurontin because it can affect the results of urine tests.
Neurontin has different effects on children and the elderly, so special precautions should be followed before Neurontin is prescribed.
What Should I Tell My Healthcare Professional?
If you’re considering Neurontin, you should tell your healthcare professional if you have any allergies, if you are pregnant or could be pregnant, if you are breast-feeding, or if you have kidney disease.
If you experience any of the following severe or persistent side effects, you should notify your treating physician:
- Drowsiness, tiredness, or weakness
- Dizziness or unsteadiness
- Shaking of a part of your body that you cannot control
- Double or blurred vision
- Memory problems
- Strange or unusual thoughts
- Unwanted eye movements
- Nausea or vomiting
- Dry mouth
- Weight gain
- Swelling of the extremities
- Back or joint pain
- Runny nose, sneezing, cough, sore throat, or flu-like symptoms
- Ear pain
- Red, itchy eyes (sometimes with swelling or discharge)
Some side effects can indicate a more serious health complication. If you experience any of the following side effects, call your healthcare professional immediately:
- Swelling of the face, throat, tongue, lips, eyes, hands, feet, ankles, or lower legs
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
Are There Any Interactions With Drugs or Foods?
Neurontin and other medicines can interact with each other, so tell your healthcare professional about all the medicines you take, including vitamins and herbal supplements. Neurontin taken with antacids can cause lower levels of Neurontin in your blood, so you should take your Neurontin at least two hours before any antacid. If you take morphine while taking Neurontin, your blood levels of Neurontin may elevate and cause enhanced side effects. Neurontin will also add to the effects of alcohol and other depressants such as antihistamines, sedatives, tranquilizers, sleep medications, prescription pain medication, narcotics, barbiturates, other seizure medications, muscle relaxants, anesthetics, and other medicines that can make you drowsy or less alert.
Getting Legal Help
While most medications have certain anticipated side effects, a drug manufacturer has a duty to make its products as reasonably safe as possible, and to inform the medical community and the public of known risks associated with its drugs. If a manufacturer fails to do so, it can be held legally responsible if patients are injured as the result of inadequate warnings or the unreasonably dangerous nature of the drug, under a legal theory called "product liability."
If you or a loved one has experienced any unusual symptoms or medical conditions while taking Neurontin, you should first contact your doctor or other healthcare professional. You may also want to meet with an experienced medical malpractice or product liability attorney to discuss your options and protect your right to a legal remedy for any injuries caused by Neurontin use.