BY: Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Neurontin and its newer more potent version, Lyrica, are widely used for off-label indications that are an outright flagrant danger to the public. These blockbuster drugs were approved for use even though the FDA had no idea what they actually did in the brain. A shocking new study shows that they block the formation of new brain synapses1, drastically reducing the potential for rejuvenating brain plasticity – meaning that these drugs will cause brain decline faster than any substance known to mankind.
The problem of these drugs is compounded by their flagrant illegal marketing. Neurontin was approved by the FDA for epilepsy back in 1994. The drug underwent massive illegal off-label promotion that cost Warner-Lambert 430 million dollars (the very first big fine for off-label promotion). The drug is now owned by Pfizer. Pfizer also owns Lyrica, a super-potent version of Neurontin. It has been approved by the FDA for various types of pain and fibromyalgia. Lyrica is one of four drugs which a subsidiary of Pfizer illegally marketed, resulting in a $2.3 billion settlement against Pfizer.
Even though the marketing of these drugs has been heavily fined, they continue to rack up billions in sales from the off-label uses. Doctors use them for all manner of nerve issues because they are good at suppressing symptoms. However, such uses can no longer be justified because the actual mechanism of the drugs is finally understood and they are creating a significant long-term reduction in nerve health.
The researchers in the above study try to downplay the serious nature of the drugs by saying “adult neurons don’t form many new synapses.” That is simply not true. The new science is showing that brain health during aging relies on the formation of new synapses. Even these researchers managed to question the common use of these medications in pregnant women. How is a fetus supposed to make new nerve cells when the mother is taking a drug that blocks them?
These are the kind of situations the FDA should be all over. As usual, the FDA is sitting around pondering a suicide warning for Lyrica while its off-label uses include bi-polar disorder and migraine headaches. The FDA is likely to twiddle its thumbs for the next decade on the brain damage issue. Consumer beware.