BBC News

Pregabalin/Lyrica: Consultation over 'bud' drug is 'significant step'

image copyrightScience Photo Library
image captionPregabalin, also known by the brand name Lyrica, is an anti-epileptic drug sometimes prescribed for chronic pain

The Home Office has launched a formal consultation to potentially reclassify a prescription drug abused by teenagers in Northern Ireland.

Pregabalin, also known by the brand name Lyrica, is an anti-epileptic drug, sometimes prescribed for chronic pain.

In 2015, it was prescribed more in Northern Ireland than anywhere else in the UK.

The consultation will look at whether pregabalin should become a Class C drug.

This would make it illegal to have the drugs without a prescription and criminalise those who supply or sell them to others.

The Advisory Council for the Misuse of Drugs made the recommendation in a letter to ministers, including the then home secretary Theresa May, in January 2016.

One user who spoke anonymously to BBC News NI said the drug, which has been linked to a number of deaths, was widely available to buy on the street.

"It really does ruin your life, ruins your mind, makes you dumber," he said.

The consultation will seek the opinions of the public, healthcare professionals, the pharmaceutical industry and others.

'Illicit sources'

Joe Brogan, the Health and Social Care Board's head of pharmacy, welcomed the consultation.

He wrote to the Home Office in 2013 asking them to look at the drug.

"There's a very big focus on the amount of the drug that is being prescribed in Northern Ireland and rightly so, but it is also available online and through other illicit sources," he said.

"Reclassification of this drug will make possession with intent to supply illegal.

"This will have a substantial impact on the criminal behaviour surrounding the supply of the drug.

"The hope is that it will reduce the number of deaths and the harm being caused by this drug."

Mr Brogan said the impact of reclassification could take "years" to trickle down, but called it a "significant first step".

"This action deals with the issue of when people have started to use this particular drug, but we need to talk more about prevention," he said.

"Why is it being prescribed and used and is there more to be done in the prevention side of things?"

On Tuesday night, BBC Spotlight investigates the rise in deaths from prescription drug abuse and asks why in Northern Ireland these drugs kill more than heroin.

You can watch that programme on BBC One at 10:40 GMT.

More on this story

  • Life on Lyrica: A user's perspective