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Physicians worldwide have room to reduce benzodiazepine prescribing. A policy change in the Netherlands led to a moderate decrease in the number of new diagnoses of anxiety and sleeping disorder and a reduction in benzodiazepine prescriptions among newly diagnosed patients. Researchers of Utrecht University and NIVEL published their findings in Annals of Family Medicine.
Assessing the impact of a recent Dutch reimbursement restriction on the use of benzodiazepines in primary care intended to reduce costs and limit misuse, researchers find the policy change led to a moderate decrease in the number of new diagnoses of anxiety and sleeping disorder and a reduction in benzodiazepine prescriptions among newly diagnosed patients. Analyzing data on 13,596 patients with an incident diagnosis of anxiety or sleeping disorder, researchers found a significantly lower incidence of sleeping disorder diagnoses (3,254 in 2008 vs. 2,863 in 2009) and anxiety diagnoses (3,769 in 2008 vs. 3,710 in 2009) after the restriction went into effect.
Moreover, the proportion of patients being prescribed a benzodiazepine after a diagnosis was lower in 2009 than in 2008 for both anxiety (30 percent vs. 34 percent) and sleeping disorder (59 percent vs. 67 percent), as was the proportion of patients with more than one benzodiazepine prescription for both anxiety (36 percent vs. 43 percent) and sleeping disorder (35 percent vs. 43 percent). In fact, researchers note, benzodiazepines disappeared from the Netherlands’ top 10 most prescribed medications and were among the top 10 medications with the steepest decrease in number of prescriptions. Notably, the authors found no increase in the use of alternative treatment for anxiety using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These findings suggest that a policy measure can affect drug prescribing, and the authors conclude that physicians have room to reduce benzodiazepine prescribing.
- Utrecht University