Continuity of treatment with benzodiazepines in dementia patients: an analysis of German health insurance claims data

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Long-term treatment with benzodiazepines (BZD) should be avoided in dementia patients because of an increased risk of adverse events. We evaluated how continuously dementia patients were prescribed BZD over 12 months. For this observational study, we used claims data from a large German public sickness fund for 2014 and 2015, including patients with an incident diagnosis of dementia in 2014. The aim was to evaluate the continuity of treatment, the frequency of BZD prescriptions and defined daily doses were evaluated. In total, 1298 (5.6%) patients received 4.7±5.2 BZD prescriptions in 2015 on average. Thereof, lorazepam (47.5%), oxazepam (18.6%), diazepam (14.5%), and bromazepam (12.2%) were most often prescribed. 30.7% of the patients received at least one BZD prescription in each quarter of 2015. Although the total number of patients receiving BZD decreased in 2015, defined daily doses for single substances remained mainly unchanged. The incident diagnosis of dementia was not associated with modifications of prescription behavior. The treatment with BZD was not discontinued in a large proportion of dementia patients, increasing the risk of adverse events. Physicians’ awareness of avoiding BZD should be improved and further evidence for the appropriate treatment of psychiatric symptoms in dementia (e.g. sleep disturbances, anxiety) is required.

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