Primary care hypnotic and anxiolytic prescription: Reviewing prescribing practice over 8 years

Lloyd D Hughes (Lead / Corresponding author), Neil Raitt, Muhammed Awais Riaz, Sarah-Jane Baldwin, Kay Erskine, Gail Graham

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    Introduction: Over the last few years, hypnotic and anxiolytic medications have had their clinical efficacy questioned in the context of concerns regarding dependence, tolerance alongside other adverse effects. It remains unclear how these concerns have impacted clinical prescribing practice.  Materials and Methods: This is a study reviewing community-dispensed prescribing data for patients on the East Practice Medical Center list in Arbroath, Scotland, in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Anxiolytic and hypnotic medications were defined in accordance with the British National Formulary chapter 4.1.1 and chapter 4.1.2. All patients receiving a drug within this class in any of the study years were collated and anonymized using primary care prescribing data. The patients' age, gender, name of the prescribed drug(s), and total number of prescriptions in this class over the year were extracted. Results: The proportion of patients prescribed a benzodiazepine medication decreased between 2007 and 2015: 83.8% (n = 109) in 2007, 70.5% (n = 122) in 2011, and 51.7% (n = 138) in 2015 (P = 0.006). The proportion of these patients prescribed a nonbenzodiazepine drug increased between 2007 and 2015: 30% (n = 39) in 2007, 46.2% (n = 80) in 2011, and 52.4% (n = 140) in 2015 (P = 0.001). There was a significant increase in the number of patients prescribed melatonin (P = 0.020). Discussion: This study reports a reduction in benzodiazepine prescriptions in primary care alongside increases in nonbenzodiazepine and melatonin prescribing, with an increase in prescribing rates of this drug class overall.  Conclusion: Changes in this prescribing practice may reflect the medicalization of insomnia, local changes in prescribing practice and alongside national recommendations.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)652-657
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Family Medicine and Primary Care
    Issue number3
    Early online date30 Dec 2016
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2017


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