What is Lyrica Used For?

two prescription bottles with pills next to them
Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Lyrica (pregabalin) is now one of the 10 most prescribed drugs in the United States. Chemically similar to Neurontin (gabapentin), which is also an anti-epileptic medication, Lyrica is used to treat brain- and nerve-related disorders.

To remember Lyrica’s uses outside of epilepsy, just remember: nerve pain and fibromyalgia. Lyrica received FDA approval for use in cases of partial onset seizures in adults with epilepsy (as an add-on medication), nerve pain related to diabetes and nerve pain from shingles (postherpetic neuralgia) in 2004. Since then, the FDA has also approved Lyrica for use in fibromyalgia and nerve pain related to spinal cord injury. Lyrica won’t heal these conditions, but it can be an effective way to manage pain, so you can carry on with everyday life.

Nerve Pain

Lyrica is approved for treating nerve pain related to several conditions. It can help folks with diabetic neuropathy, which often causes pain in the feet and/or hands due to nerve damage. Lyrica’s also useful for persistent pain after shingles and pain after spinal cord injury.

Nerve pain is a real tooth-achy kind of pain. It feels like burning, sharp stabbing or numbing. As far as Lyrica dosing for nerve pain goes, prescriptions usually start at 50 mg three times a day, which can go up to 300 mg a day. Above 300 mg, there isn’t any added benefit and side effects actually become worse.

Fibromyalgia

Lyrica is FDA-approved for use in fibromyalgia, but here is what you need to know: no medication works great for fibromyalgia. The first place to start with treatment is lifestyle changes. This includes going on an exercise program that has stretching and strengthening components, and figuring out a good sleep hygiene routine so you can prevent fibromyalgia symptoms like mood or sleep disorders.

Medical treatment for fibromyalgia often starts with amitriptyline, a drug used to treat nerve pain and mood disorders like depression. If you can’t tolerate amitriptyline or can’t sleep well because of your fibromyalgia pain, Lyrica may help. Lyrica dosing for fibromyalgia starts at 75 mg twice a day, which can be increased to 150 mg twice a day. Again, any higher than that doesn’t add any benefits and can worsen side effects.

Side Effects of Lyrica

Higher doses of Lyrica mean more side effects. The most common side effects with Lyrica are dizziness (up to 45% of patients) and drowsiness (up to 36% of patients), and they get worse with higher doses. Other side effects include loss of balance or coordination, problems with memory or concentration, tremors (shakiness), weight gain and vision problems (like blurred or double vision).

Lyrica withdrawal is also a well-documented downside of taking the medication. Abruptly stopping Lyrica can cause withdrawal symptoms like headache, nausea, anxiety, pain and insomnia. 

Prescription Hassles

Lyrica is a Schedule V drug, similar to promethazine and codeine (the active ingredient in the infamous Purple Drank cough syrup). As such, Lyrica requires a triplicate prescription from your doctor before it can be filled.

How to Save on Lyrica

Lyrica is a brand-name drug currently without a generic option, so it may be expensive for you. It comes only as a capsule, so you can’t split it in half, but know that the 75 mg, 150 mg and 300 mg capsules are roughly the same price.

Dr O.

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