The Skellow grandma has returned to doing the everyday activities - like gardening and swimming with her grandchildren - that she lost her appetite for after being prescribed tramadol for seven years to ease the recurrent severe back pain she has suffered since falling down a flight of stairs in the 1980s.
Mrs Harrison is one of the first successes of a new scheme being trialled across north west Doncaster GP practices to reduce the prescribing of addictive painkilling drugs – such as tramadol, pregabalin and gabapentin - by offering patients alternative treatments they won’t become so dependent on.
She said: “I started on them in 2008, shortly after returning from living in the USA. At one stage I was taking the maximum dose of two tablets, four times a day, and the pain would still keep me awake at night. The effect of the tablets just numbed me to the point that I was constantly lethargic and didn’t enjoy life anymore. In effect I was a drug addict without being aware of it.”
Mrs Harrison’s GP, Dr Niki Seddon, suggested coming off the drug over an eight weeks long period and replacing them with slow release pain-killers, which can be managed without becoming so addictive.
“I now want to get up in the morning and really feel great, something I couldn’t appreciate before when I was heavily medicated”, added Mrs Harrison, whose husband Keith works at a South African diamond mine.”
Dr Seddon, who is based at Carcroft Health Centre and leading the trial scheme for NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said Doncaster is the biggest prescriber of pregabalin in the Yorkshire and Humber region and there is also believed to be a significant black market for tramadol in the borough.
“Public Health England say the drugs have addictive potential. The 10 GP practices in the north west of the borough have been reviewing their patients who are on the drug to see if it is appropriate for them, she said..
“Some 607 patients were prescribed the drug when we started individual patient reviews and following consultations with them there are now 433 - a reduction of 174, or 29 per cent – with the scheme still being in progress.
“We currently spend £2.2 million a year on pregabalin prescribing in Doncaster, which is our second highest drug spend. But this trial scheme is not just about making savings, it’s about improving the quality of life for those people who have been on the drug for a long time by offering them a better way of controlling their pain without becoming dependent.”
Based on the initial findings in the north- west, the CCG has agreed to roll-out the scheme at GP practices across the rest of the borough.