CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A surge of overdoses has led the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy to designate a nerve-pain medication called gabapentin as a “drug of concern.”

Mike Goff, the board’s acting executive director, aired his concerns Tuesday with state lawmakers about the drug, which is sold under the brand name Neurontin and used to treat such conditions as seizure and the pain caused by shingles, The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported .

“There has been a tremendous increase in the number of gabapentin dispensings,” and overdoses, Goff said.

The number of overdose deaths tied to the drug has risen from 36 in 2012 to 106 cases last year, Goff noted. He added that his board has begun tracking sales of the drug.

Separately, state lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation next month that would classify gabapentin as a controlled substance in West Virginia. The classification would increase reporting requirements and likely reduce the number of pills prescribed. A draft of a bill recently distributed by legislative staff taking fresh aim at the opioid crisis also includes a proposal for new restrictions on gabapentin.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved gabapentin to treat seizures and pain caused by shingles. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has promoted the drug as a safer alternative to prescription opioids.

“It has a market value on the streets,” West Virginia State Medical Association president Dr. Brad Henry said. “It’s being abused and meets the definition of a scheduled drug.”

Ohio has been tracking gabapentin prescription sales for more than a year. Kentucky designated gabapentin as a controlled substance in July.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.