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Gabapentin and Cancer Risk: Updated Findings from Kaiser Permanente Northern California

Epidemiologic analyses of gabapentin use and cancer risk in Kaiser Permanente Northern California were previously carried out in a collaborative study and independently evaluated in a UK database. To update these epidemiologic analyses with 7.5 more years of follow-up. Case-control analyses using conditional logistic regression to estimate relative risk by odds ratios using the prior collaboration’s criteria for identifying positive drug-cancer associations and our more stringent criteria requiring stronger association, lower p values, and evidence of dose response. New associations were reanalyzed with additional control for limited measures of smoking and alcohol use. Gabapentin-cancer associations. No previously found associations met our stringent criteria, but cancers of the mouth/pharynx, esophagus, liver, and vagina did. All odds ratios for 3 or more and 8 or more prescriptions were moderately reduced by control for smoking and alcohol. Substantial elevations of risk of mouth/pharynx, liver, and vaginal cancers were associated with only 1 prescription dispensed. Sensitivity analyses aimed at possible confounding and other biases did not change our conclusions but did reveal a markedly increased risk of vaginal cancer in gabapentin users with epilepsy compared with users without. The reduced magnitude of relative risk with control for smoking and alcohol use suggests confounding by known risk factors. Biologically implausible elevated risk from just 1 prescription suggests confounding by indication. Either or both of these concerns applies to each of the 4 cancer sites associated with gabapentin use. Updated analyses show little if any evidence for carcinogenic effects of gabapentin.

Authors: Friedman GD; Achacoso N; Habel LA

Perm J. 2019;23.

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