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J Manag Care Pharm. 2003 Nov-Dec;9(6):559-68.

Examination of the evidence for off-label use of gabapentin.

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PharmD, Clinical Pharmafy Coordinator, Three Rivers Administrative Services, Monroeville, PA 15146, USA.



(1) Describe the relevance of off-label use of gabapentin to managed care pharmacy; (2) summarize recent FDA warnings and media reports related to off-label gabapentin use; (3) review medical information pertaining to the off-label use of gabapentin; (4) outline alternatives to off-label use of gabapentin in an evidence-based fashion, where literature exists to support such alternatives; and (5) encourage key clinicians and decision makers in managed care pharmacy to develop and support programs that restrict the use of gabapentin to specific evidence-based situations.


Gabapentin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for adjunctive therapy in treatment of partial seizures and postherpetic neuralgia. Various off-label (unapproved) uses have been reported, and the use of gabapentin for off-label purposes has reportedly exceeded use for FDAapproved indications. Pharmaceutical marketing practices and physician dissatisfaction with currently available pharmacological treatment options may be key factors that contribute to this prescribing trend. Recently, the media has focused on these issues, noting that many cases of reported safety and effectiveness of gabapentin for off-label use may have been fabricated. A thorough review of the medical and pharmacy literature related to off-label use of gabapentin was performed, and a summary of the literature for the following conditions is presented: bipolar disorder, peripheral neuropathy, diabetic neuropathy, complex regional pain syndrome, attention deficit disorder, restless legs syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, periodic limb movement disorder of sleep, migraine headaches, and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. A common theme in the medical literature for gabapentin is the prevalence of open-label studies and a lack of randomized controlled clinical trials for all but a small number of indications.


In the majority of circumstances where it has reported potential use, gabapentin is not the optimal treatment. The off-label use of gabapentin for indications not approved by the FDA should be reserved for cases where there is solid research support (e.g., diabetic neuropathy and prophylaxis of frequent migraine headaches). Managed care pharmacists should develop programs to restrict the use of gabapentin to these specific evidence-based situations, and key decision makers in managed care practice should feel confident in supporting these use restrictions for gabapentin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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