Pregabalin vs Gabapentin: Which Anticonvulsant is Right for You?

Pregabalin and gabapentin are two medications used to treat a variety of conditions, including epilepsy, neuropathic pain, and anxiety disorders. While they share some similarities, they also have significant differences in their pharmacology, efficacy, and side effect profiles. In this blog post, we will explore the similarities and differences between pregabalin and gabapentin, with a focus on their mechanism of action, clinical uses, and potential adverse effects.

Mechanism of Action

Both pregabalin and gabapentin are anticonvulsants that work by binding to the alpha-2-delta subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels in the central nervous system. This binding reduces the release of several neurotransmitters, including glutamate, substance P, and norepinephrine, which play a role in pain perception and anxiety.

However, pregabalin has a higher affinity for the alpha-2-delta subunit than gabapentin, which means it is more potent at reducing the release of neurotransmitters. Additionally, pregabalin is rapidly absorbed and has a bioavailability of 90%, whereas gabapentin has a bioavailability of 30-60%, and its absorption is limited by the presence of food in the stomach.

Clinical Uses

Epilepsy: Both pregabalin and gabapentin are approved by the FDA for the treatment of partial-onset seizures in adults. However, pregabalin is also approved for the adjunctive treatment of primary generalized tonic-clonic seizures.

Neuropathic Pain: Both pregabalin and gabapentin are effective in treating neuropathic pain, including diabetic neuropathy, postherpetic neuralgia, and fibromyalgia. However, pregabalin has been shown to be more effective than gabapentin in reducing pain intensity and improving sleep quality in patients with diabetic neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgia.

Anxiety Disorders: Pregabalin is also approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in adults, whereas gabapentin is not. Pregabalin has been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of GAD, including anxiety, worry, and sleep disturbance.

Adverse Effects

The most common adverse effects of pregabalin and gabapentin are dizziness, somnolence, and peripheral edema. However, pregabalin has a higher incidence of adverse effects than gabapentin, particularly at higher doses. The most common adverse effects of pregabalin are dizziness, somnolence, headache, and dry mouth, whereas the most common adverse effects of gabapentin are dizziness, somnolence, and ataxia.

Studies have also suggested that pregabalin may have a higher risk of abuse and dependence than gabapentin. A study published in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment found that pregabalin was associated with higher rates of misuse and addiction than gabapentin among patients with a history of opioid dependence.

Here’s a table summarizing the similarities and differences between pregabalin and gabapentin:

PregabalinGabapentin
Mechanism of ActionBinds to alpha-2-delta subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, reducing neurotransmitter releaseBinds to alpha-2-delta subunit of voltage-gated calcium channels, reducing neurotransmitter release
Clinical UsesEpilepsy, neuropathic pain (including diabetic neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgia), generalized anxiety disorderEpilepsy, neuropathic pain (including diabetic neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgia)
EfficacyMore potent than gabapentin in reducing pain intensity and improving sleep quality in diabetic neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgiaLess potent than pregabalin in reducing pain intensity and improving sleep quality in diabetic neuropathy and postherpetic neuralgia
Bioavailability90%30-60%
Adverse EffectsDizziness, somnolence, headache, dry mouth, peripheral edemaDizziness, somnolence, ataxia, peripheral edema
Risk of AbuseHigher than gabapentinLower than pregabalin

Conclusion

In summary, pregabalin and gabapentin are two medications with similar mechanisms of action, but pregabalin is more potent and has a higher bioavailability. Both medications are approved for the treatment of epilepsy and neuropathic pain, but pregabalin is also approved for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. Pregabalin has a higher incidence of adverse effects, particularly at higher doses, and may have a higher risk of abuse and dependence than gabapentin. Therefore, the choice of medication should be based on the patient’s individual needs and the condition being treated, and a healthcare provider should closely monitor the patient’s response to treatment.


There are various forms of drugs available, such as tablets or liquids, and each may have a separate patient information leaflet (PIL) for different doses. It is important to refer to the PIL for the specific form and dose of the drug that you have been prescribed.

You can search for further information and PILs on websites such as:

  • The British National Formulary (BNF)
  • Electronic medicines compendium (emc)
  • The National Library of Medicine's DailyMed
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) 
  • Different drug forms like tablets or liquids have specific patient information leaflets (PIL) for various doses. Refer to the PIL for your prescribed drug form and dose.

    Search for PILs on websites like:

    France

    • ANSM (Agence nationale de sécurité du médicament et des produits de santé): ansm.sante.fr

    Spain

    • AEMPS (Agencia Española de Medicamentos y Productos Sanitarios): aemps.gob.es

    Germany

    • BfArM (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte): bfarm.de

    Italy

    For questions about your medication:

    • Consult your doctor, a healthcare professional, or a pharmacist

    France

    • Contact SOS Médecins: 3624
    • For mental health support, contact SOS Suicide: 01 45 39 40 00

    Belgium (French)

    Switzerland (French)

    • La Main Tendue: 143
    • Website: 143.ch

    Canada (French)

    • Centre de prévention du suicide du Québec: 1 866 APPELLE (1 866 277-3553)
    • Website: cpsquebec.ca

    Spain

    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Teléfono de la Esperanza: 717 003 717

    Germany

    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Telefonseelsorge: 0800 111 0 111 or 0800 111 0 222

    Italy

    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Telefono Amico: 199 284 284

    Netherlands

    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact 113 Zelfmoordpreventie: 0800 0113

    Portugal

    • Contact emergency number: 112
    • For mental health support, contact Sos Voz Amiga: 21 354 45 45, 91 280 26 69, or 96 352 46 60

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