Reduction of inappropriate benzodiazepine prescriptions among older adults through direct patient education: the EMPOWER cluster randomized trial

JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Jun;174(6):890-8. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.949.


Importance: The American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation Choosing Wisely Campaign recommends against the use of benzodiazepine drugs for adults 65 years and older. The effect of direct patient education to catalyze collaborative care for reducing inappropriate prescriptions remains unknown.

Objective: To compare the effect of a direct-to-consumer educational intervention against usual care on benzodiazepine therapy discontinuation in community-dwelling older adults.

Design, setting, and participants: Cluster randomized trial (EMPOWER [Eliminating Medications Through Patient Ownership of End Results] study [2010-2012, 6-month follow-up]). Community pharmacies were randomly allocated to the intervention or control arm in nonstratified, blocked groups of 4. Participants (303 long-term users of benzodiazepine medication aged 65-95 years, recruited from 30 community pharmacies) were screened and enrolled prior to randomization: 15 pharmacies randomized to the educational intervention included 148 participants and 15 pharmacies randomized to the "wait list" control included 155 participants. Participants, physicians, pharmacists, and evaluators were blinded to outcome assessment.

Interventions: The active arm received a deprescribing patient empowerment intervention describing the risks of benzodiazepine use and a stepwise tapering protocol. The control arm received usual care.

Main outcomes and measures: Benzodiazepine therapy discontinuation at 6 months after randomization, ascertained by pharmacy medication renewal profiles.

Results: A total of 261 participants (86%) completed the 6-month follow-up. Of the recipients in the intervention group, 62% initiated conversation about benzodiazepine therapy cessation with a physician and/or pharmacist. At 6 months, 27% of the intervention group had discontinued benzodiazepine use compared with 5% of the control group (risk difference, 23% [95% CI, 14%-32%]; intracluster correlation, 0.008; number needed to treat, 4). Dose reduction occurred in an additional 11% (95% CI, 6%-16%). In multivariate subanalyses, age greater than 80 years, sex, duration of use, indication for use, dose, previous attempt to taper, and concomitant polypharmacy (10 drugs or more per day) did not have a significant interaction effect with benzodiazepine therapy discontinuation.

Conclusions and relevance: Direct-to-consumer education effectively elicits shared decision making around the overuse of medications that increase the risk of harm in older adults.

Trial registration: Identifier: NCT01148186.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Benzodiazepines* / administration & dosage
  • Contraindications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / prevention & control*
  • Inappropriate Prescribing / psychology
  • Male
  • Patient Education as Topic*
  • Power, Psychological
  • Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / drug therapy


  • Benzodiazepines

Associated data