Background: Hydroxyzine is indicated for the management of anxiety, skin and sleep disorders. In 2015, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) concluded that hydroxyzine was pro-arrhythmogenic and changes to the product information were implemented in Europe. This study aimed to evaluate their impact in Denmark, Scotland, England and the Netherlands.
Method: Quarterly time series analyses measuring hydroxyzine initiation, discontinuation, and switching to other antihistamines, benzodiazepines and antidepressants in Denmark, England, Scotland and the Netherlands from 2009-2018. Data were analysed using interrupted time series regression.
Results: Hydroxyzine initiation in quarter one 2010 in Denmark, Scotland, England and the Netherlands per 100,000 was: 23.5, 91.5, 35.9 and 34.4 respectively. Regulatory action was associated with a significant: immediate fall in hydroxyzine initiation per 100,000 in England (-12.05, 95%CI -18.47 to -5.63) and Scotland (-19.01, 95%CI -26.99 to -11.02); change to a negative trend in hydroxyzine initiation per 100,000/quarter in England (-1.72, 95%CI -2.69 to -0.75) and Scotland (-2.38, 95%CI -3.32 to -1.44). Regulatory action was associated with a significant: immediate rise in hydroxyzine discontinuation per 100,000 in England (3850, 95%CI 440 to 7240). No consistent changes were observed in the Netherlands or Denmark. Regulatory action was associated with no switching to other antihistamines, benzodiazepines or antidepressants following hydroxyzine discontinuation in any country.
Conclusion: The 2015 EMA regulatory action was associated with heterogeneous impact with reductions in hydroxyzine initiation varying by country. There was limited impact on discontinuation with no strong evidence suggesting unintended consequences of major switching to other antihistamines, benzodiazepines or antidepressants.