Neurontin capsules and tablets contain the active ingredient gabapentin, which is a medicine that is mainly used to treat epilepsy. (NB Gabapentin is also available without a brand name) Gabapentin works by stabilising electrical activity in the brain.
The way in which gabapentin works is not fully understood. It is thought to work by binding to calcium channels found on nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This is thought to affect the release of various neurotransmitters from these nerve cells.
Neurotransmitters are natural body chemicals that are stored in nerve cells. They are involved in transmitting messages between the nerve cells. Gabapentin is thought to reduce the release of a neurotransmitter called glutamate.
Glutamate is a neurotransmitter that acts as a natural ‘nerve-exciting’ agent. It is released when electrical signals build up in nerve cells and subsequently excites more nerve cells. It is thought to play a key role in causing epileptic seizures. Reducing the release of glutamate from the nerve cells in the brain is thought to help stabilise the electrical activity in the brain and prevent epileptic fits.
Gabapentin is used to prevent partial seizures, and partial seizures that spread to secondary generalised seizures.
Glutamate is also involved in transmitting pain signals in the brain and nervous system. As gabapentin reduces the release of this neurotransmitter it can also be used to treat nerve pain occuring as a result of damage to or a disturbance in the function of nerves (neuropathic pain). It probably works in other ways in this area as well.
What is it used for?
- Epilepsy- used for partial seizures. This medicine may be used on its own to treat adults and children aged 12 years and over, or as an add-on therapy for adults and children aged six years and over who are already taking other antiepileptics.
- Peripheral nerve pain (neuropathic pain) in adults, for example due to diabetic neuro or following shingles.
- Preventing migraine (unlicensed use).