Improving the use of benzodiazepines--is it possible? A non-systematic review of interventions tried in the last 20 years

BMC Health Serv Res. 2010 Nov 30:10:321. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-10-321.


Background: Benzodiazepines are often used on a long term basis in the elderly to treat various psychological disorders including sleep disorders, some neurological disorders and anxiety. This is despite the risk of dependence, cognitive impairment, and falls and fractures. Guidelines, campaigns and prescribing restrictions have been used to raise awareness of potentially inappropriate use, however long term use of benzodiazepine and related compounds is currently increasing in Australia and worldwide. The objective of this paper is to explore interventions aimed at improving the prescribing and use of benzodiazepines in the last 20 years.

Methods: Medline, EMBASE, PsychINFO, IPA were searched for the period 1987 to June 2007.

Results: Thirty-two articles met the study eligibility criteria (interventions solely focusing on increasing appropriate prescribing and reducing long term use of benzodiazepines) and were appraised. Insufficient data were presented in these studies for systematic data aggregation and synthesis, hence critical appraisal was used to tabulate the studies and draw empirical conclusions. Three major intervention approaches were identified; education, audit and feedback, and alerts.

Conclusions: Studies which used a multi-faceted approach had the largest and most sustained reductions in benzodiazepines use. It appears that support groups for patients, non-voluntary recruitment of GPs, and oral delivery of alerts or feedback may all improve the outcomes of interventions. The choice of outcome measures, delivery style of educational messages, and requests by GPs to stop benzodiazepines, either in a letter or face to face, showed no differences on the success rates of the intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Benzodiazepines / standards
  • Benzodiazepines / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Utilization Review / standards
  • Drug Utilization Review / trends*
  • Health Services Research / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / standards
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / methods
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / standards*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Benzodiazepines