Lyrica, a drug linked to depression and anxiety, now the top pain medication on the PBS

Lucy Pallot

Lucy Pallot had never experienced the lows of depression and anxiety until she started taking pregabalin.

“I would never even think about suicidal thoughts and that was the only thing we can pin it to, is the Lyrica. That’s all,” said Ms Pallot, 25, from Bairnsdale in Victoria’s east.

She was taking what is now the most commonly prescribed subscription medication for pain in Australia, pregabalin, which is sold under the brand name Lyrica.

Doctors issued 4.1 million scripts for the drug last year.

Ms Pallot, along with a growing number of health professionals and other patients, is now questioning whether pregabalin is being incorrectly prescribed to make up for inadequate specialist healthcare in regional Australia.

In 2017, Ms Pallot, who has type one diabetes, was working in a beauty salon in Melbourne when she went to a doctor complaining of restless legs.

“The doctor who prescribed it to me didn’t do any tests. She just said ‘take this, it will help you sleep’,” she said.

“[It was if the doctor said] medicate yourself, and if it gets worse, have more.”

So that is what Ms Pallot did.

She upped her daily dose from 25 milligrams to 250 milligrams, and within eight months she was addicted and critically ill.

She weighed just 49 kilograms, suffered blurred vision, and had the heart rate of an 80-year-old.

“I ended up losing about 35 kilograms in three months and I was put in hospital for about four to five weeks in ICU in Melbourne because I had anorexia,” Ms Pallot said.

“There were times I would be rocking. I was fully, mentally unwell.

“And I had this brain fog where I would try to say something but the words wouldn’t come out.”