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Addressing the Issue of Chronic, Inappropriate Benzodiazepine Use: How Can Pharmacists Play a Role?
School of Medicine & Medical Science, Conway Institute, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland
Received: 24 June 2013; in revised form: 4 September 2013 / Accepted: 16 September 2013 / Published: 25 September 2013
Abstract: Prescribing guidelines do not recommend the long-term use of benzodiazepines since their effectiveness with chronic use is out-weighed by risks including dependence, memory and cognitive impairment, hip fractures and traffic accidents. Despite these guidelines, historical data points to an increasing proportion of inappropriate, repeat prescribing of benzodiazepines in Ireland and elsewhere, with up to 33% of patients who use these drugs doing so long-term. The typical long-term benzodiazepine user is an older, socio-economically disadvantaged patient who has been prescribed these medicines by their general practitioner (GP) and dispensed them by their community pharmacist. Misuse of benzodiazepines in nursing homes and psychiatric institutions is also of concern, with one Irish study indicating that almost half of all admissions to a psychiatric hospital were prescribed these drugs, usually despite a lack of clear clinical need. Discontinuation of benzodiazepines has proven to be of benefit, as it is followed by improvements in cognitive and psychomotor function, particularly in elderly patients. It is obvious that an inter-professional effort, focusing on the primary care setting, is required to address benzodiazepine misuse and to ensure appropriate pharmaceutical care. Pharmacists must be an integral part of this inter-professional effort, not least because they are uniquely positioned as the health professional with most frequent patient contact. There is already some supporting evidence that pharmacists’ involvement in interventions to reduce benzodiazepine use can have positive effects on patient outcomes. Here, this evidence is reviewed and the potential for pharmacists to play an expanded role in ensuring the appropriate use of benzodiazepines is discussed.
Keywords: benzodiazepine; pharmaceutical care; withdrawal; tapering; pharmacist; inappropriate prescribing; sedation; dependency; cognitive function
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Gallagher, H.C. Addressing the Issue of Chronic, Inappropriate Benzodiazepine Use: How Can Pharmacists Play a Role? Pharmacy 2013, 1, 65-93.
Gallagher HC. Addressing the Issue of Chronic, Inappropriate Benzodiazepine Use: How Can Pharmacists Play a Role? Pharmacy. 2013; 1(2):65-93.
Gallagher, Helen C. 2013. "Addressing the Issue of Chronic, Inappropriate Benzodiazepine Use: How Can Pharmacists Play a Role?" Pharmacy 1, no. 2: 65-93.