Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist
Neurontin and its newer, more potent version, Lyrica, are often used for off-label indications that pose an obvious risk to the public. These blockbuster drugs were approved for use, although the FDA had no idea what they were actually doing in the brain. A shocking new study shows that they block the formation of new brain synapses 1 , drastically reducing the potential for rejuvenating brain plasticity — meaning these drugs cause brain deterioration faster than any substance known to man.
The problem with these drugs is compounded by their blatant illegal marketing. Neurontin was FDA approved for epilepsy in 1994. The drug underwent massive illegal off-label advertising that cost Warner-Lambert $430 million (the first major fine for off-label advertising). The drug is now owned by Pfizer. Pfizer also owns Lyrica, a superpotent version of Neurontin. It has been approved by the FDA for various types of pain and fibromyalgia. Lyrica is one of four drugs illegally marketed by a Pfizer subsidiary. This resulted in a $2.3 billion settlement against Pfizer.
Despite being heavily fined for marketing these drugs, they continue to generate billions of dollars in sales from off-label uses. Doctors use them for all kinds of nerve problems because they are good at suppressing symptoms. However, such uses are no longer justifiable as the actual mechanism of the drugs is finally understood and causes a significant long-term reduction in nerve health.
The researchers in the above study try to downplay the serious nature of the drugs, saying, “adult neurons don’t form many new synapses.” That is simply not true. The new science shows that brain health during aging relies on the formation of new synapses. Even these researchers managed to question the common use of these drugs in pregnant women. How is a fetus supposed to make new nerve cells when the mother takes a drug that blocks them?
These are the kinds of situations the FDA should be everywhere. As usual, the FDA is sitting around contemplating a suicide warning for Lyrica, while its off-label uses include bipolar disorder and migraine headaches. The FDA will likely have its fingers crossed on the brain damage issue for the next decade. Consumers beware.