Reducing Prescriptions of Long-Acting Benzodiazepine Drugs in Denmark: A Descriptive Analysis of Nationwide Prescriptions during a 10-Year Period

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Abstract

Prolonged consumption of benzodiazepine drugs (BZD) and benzodiazepine receptor agonists (zolpidem, zaleplon, zopiclone; altogether Z drugs) is related to potential physiological and psychological dependence along with other adverse effects. This study aimed to analyse the prescribing of long-acting BZD (half-life >10 hr), compared to short-acting BZD in Denmark during a 10-year period. Descriptive analysis of total sales data from the Danish Register of Medicinal Product Statistics, to individuals in the primary healthcare sector, of all BZD and Z drugs in the period of 2003–2013. Prescription data derive from all community and hospital pharmacies in Denmark. The prescribing of long-acting BZD was reduced from 25.8 defined daily doses (DDD)/1000 inhabitants/day in 2003 to 8.8 DDD/1000 inhabitants/day in 2013, a relative reduction of 66%. The prescribing of short-acting BZD was reduced from 26.1 DDD/1000 inhabitants/day in 2003 to 16.4 DDD/1000 inhabitants/day in 2013, a relative reduction of 37%. Prescription data in this study did not include information about indications for initiating treatments. In addition, due to compliance problems, some of the prescribed drugs may not have been consumed according to the prescription. The observed reduction in BZD use was correlated to the introduction of new national guidelines on prescription of addictive drugs, but this study was not designed to detect a causal relationship. The prescribing of long-acting BZD decreased considerably more than the prescribing of short-acting BZD in the 10-year period.

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