A painkiller prescribed to millions of unsuspecting patients is ruining the lives of young Australians and tearing their bereaved families apart.
A box of the highly addictive pain reliever Lyrica, manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, can be purchased for as little as $6 from pharmacies across Australia.
While millions of scripts for the cheap and accessible drug are still being filled by doctors, Lyrica has left a growing number of Australians wishing they’d never tried their first pill.
A box of the pain reliever Lyrica, manufactured by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, can be purchased for as little as $6 from pharmacies across Australia (pictured, a box of Lyrica)
Christalla Andreadis, 52, was first introduced to Lyrica after she suffered serious spinal injuries in a horror car accident in 2017.
The financial broker used the drug in an attempt to numb her chronic pain and said doctors continued to increase her dosage until she took 450 mg a day.
Mrs. Andreadis said: A current matter If she had known what she is doing about the dangerous pills these days, she would never have taken them.
It has taken two years to come off the high dose, but the broker admits she still needs a small amount to feed her debilitating addiction.
“It cost every ounce, every fiber of my being trying to get rid of it,” she said.
‘Where does this end. I don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, really.’
Christalla Andreadis, 52, (right) was first introduced to the painkiller after she suffered severe spinal cord injuries in a car accident in 2017 and said the drug ‘digs its claws into your soul’
The financial broker (right) used Lyrica in an attempt to numb her chronic pain and said doctors continued to increase her dosage until she took 450mg per day
WHAT IS LYRICA?
*Lyrica is a pain medicine prescribed to patients to control seizures or treat nerve pain
*It is also known as Pregabalin and is manufactured by Pfizer
*It was first introduced to Australian doctors as a pain medication in 2013
*The drug is not recommended for use in children under 18 years of age
*The usual dose range is 150mg per day to 600mg per day in two divided doses
*Suddenly stopping the drug can cause withdrawal symptoms
*These may include insomnia, headache, nausea and anxiety
Source: NPS MedicineWise
It was the same heartbreaking reality for Gayle Wilson’s daughter Anita, who before she was prescribed Lyrica, was described as a smart and bubbly young woman.
The 33-year-old started taking the drug after having her wisdom teeth removed in 2017, but quickly became addicted to the pills and started self-medicating.
Gayle said her daughter was taking a deadly combination of opioids and 350mg of Lyrica a day, which left her completely exhausted and barely able to function.
Her concerned mother began filming Anita falling asleep standing or sitting face down at a table, hoping the confrontational footage would wake her up.
Gayle said she went to her daughter’s GP in hopes that he would find a solution, but left the appointment feeling disillusioned.
“He gave her exactly what she wanted because of her addiction. As many tablets as she could get, and he gave it to her,’ she said.
Anita died of an overdose last year, leaving her destitute mother convinced she could have done more to save her.
“I feel like I’ve let her down,” an emotional Gayle said, holding back her tears.
“I couldn’t find anything else to keep her alive.”
It was the same heartbreaking reality for Gayle Wilson’s daughter Anita, who before she was prescribed Lyrica, was described as a bright and bubbly young woman.
Gayle’s 33-year-old daughter Anita (pictured) started taking the drug after having her wisdom teeth removed in 2017, but quickly became addicted to the painkiller and began to self-medicate
Lyrica, also known as Pregabalin, was originally prescribed to treat patients with epilepsy and nerve pain, but has since been used to treat other conditions.
The drug was added to the Australian pharmaceutical benefits program in 2013, with Pfizer donating millions to market the drug to primary care physicians across the country.
Scripts for the drug have grown from 36,000 in 2012 to four million in 2018.
Survivors of Lyrica claim they were not warned of the potential side effects when they were first prescribed the addictive pain reliever.
Several patients who tried to come off the drug said they had dark suicidal thoughts that prevented them from getting out of bed.
Lyrica was added to the Australian pharmaceutical benefits scheme in 2013, with Pfizer putting out millions to market the drug to primary care physicians across the country (stock image of a box of Lyrica)
Others said the withdrawal symptoms were similar to those of a heroin addict.
Sydney psychiatrist Dr Tanveer Ahmed compared the drug to ‘Santa Claus in a pill’.
dr. Ahmed said the restrictions on other painkillers such as codeines and opioids had left a gap in the market for a cheap and accessible pill like Lyrica.
“There’s really very little restriction, you can definitely get a recurrence at a pharmacy, you can go to the doctor and there’s very little supervision,” he said.
He said those addicted to the painkillers needed a multidisciplinary team of experts to be supported by health authorities.
Australia’s restrictions on other painkillers such as codeines and opioids had left a gap in the market for a cheap and accessible drug like Lyrica (pictured)
The psychiatrist said access to this type of holistic team support required a waiting list and was especially difficult to get in suburban and regional areas.
“We as the medical community, as well as the wider community, didn’t think it was addictive, not that it was that dangerous,” he said.
“We’re now learning that when you give someone Lyrica, you almost expect them to take double the amount you gave them.”
When approached by A Current Affair, Pfizer asked Viatris, a company formed late last year after the Pfizer division joined forces with another pharmaceutical company.
However, Pfizer’s branding is still on Lyrica box packaging.