The purpose of the study was to assess prevalence of benzodiazepine use in the Swiss adult population and to assess on benzodiazepine prescription patterns of physicians in domiciliary practice.
Study design: A retrospective, population-based cross-sectional study with 520 000 patients covering a 6-month period.
Methods: We estimated the prevalence, amount and duration of benzodiazepine use using a pharmacy dispensing database.
Results: Of all patients, 9.1% (n=45 309) received at least one benzodiazepine prescription in the 6-month period. Most persons receiving benzodiazepine prescriptions were women (67%), and half of all patients were aged 65 or older. Of 45 309 patients with benzodiazepine prescriptions, 44% (n=19 954) had one single prescription, mostly for a short period (<90 days) and in lower than the recommended dose range. Fifty-six percent (n=25 354) had repeated benzodiazepine prescriptions, mostly for a long time period (>90 days), and in lower than the recommended or within the recommended dose range. In patients with long-term use (n=25 354), however, 1.6% had benzodiazepine prescriptions in extremely high doses. The sample of patients with repeated prescriptions allowed an estimation of a benzodiazepine use of 43.3 daily defined doses per 1000 inhabitants in Switzerland.
Conclusions: Benzodiazepine prescriptions were appropriate for most patients and thus were prescribed in therapeutic doses, as indicated in the treatment guidelines. On the other hand, our survey showed that 1.6% of the patients had prescriptions for long time periods at very high doses, indicating an abuse or dependence on benzodiazepines in this subgroup.