Neighborhood Health Clinic Alerts Homeless Patients Of Drug Reclassification

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A pharmacy that serves more than 5,000 homeless patients, along with 26,000 others, says it will no longer be able to dispense a drug commonly prescribed for mood disorders, epilepsy, nerve pain and more.

Neighborhood Health says they won’t dispense the drug Gabapentin, also known as Neurontin or “Johnnys,” because of a state reclassification of the drug as a Schedule V controlled substance beginning on July 1. 

The Tennessee State Legislature made the change following reports of abuse of the drug

“As a result of this change in state law, we will no longer be able to dispense this medication at the dispensary at our Downtown Clinic [adjacent to the Room in the Inn campus],” Neighborhood Health said in a statement.  “While we have received no guidance from the state on next steps, we are working hard to minimize the impact on our patients.” 

Neighborhood Health is trying to get the word out to its homeless patients -- and those who work with Neighborhood Health’s partner organizations -- that patients currently on Gabapentin need to come back to the clinic so they can get tapered off the drug and possibly switched to alternative medications. 

Research indicates purchases of Gabapentin on the black market are on the rise. Its brand name is Neurontin and it acts as a sedative (gives a drowsy sensation), according to statnews.com.

It's an FDA-approved pill and it does not carry the same risk of lethal overdoses as opioids do, statnews.com says.

But the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported in early 2017 that 109 people in West Virginia died from overdosing on Gabapentin in 2015.

Gabapentin also treats insomnia and migraines, according to WXYZ.com. An addiction specialist said the drug is definitely rising as one he sees often. And a doctor who wrote a dissertation on Gabapentin said there was a 3,000 percent increase in abuse in Appalachia from 2008-2014.

In the state of Ohio, pharmacies began being required to report sales of Gabapentin in December 2016, the Gazette Mail reported. 

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