Benzodiazepines

Department of Health and Social Care written question – answered on 25th January 2018.

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Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have assessed the impact on patients of the long-term use of benzodiazepines by NHS patients.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of trends in the use of dependence-forming medicines prescribed in primary care.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

To ask Her Majesty's Government what actions they are taking to discourage the use of dependence-forming medicines prescribed in primary care.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office), Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (Health and Social Care)

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to commission specific guidelines for the NHS that cover withdrawal from prescription drugs.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care

The Government is concerned about the impact of long term use of benzodiazepines by National Health Service patients and other dependence forming medicines prescribed in primary care. The National Centre for Social Research recently published Prescribing Patterns in Dependence Forming Medicines, which reviewed data for 50,000 NHS patients in England and looked at those who had been prescribed at least one of four types of potentially addictive drugs - known as Dependence Forming Medicines - between 2000 and 2015. The data shows that potentially dependence forming medicines are widely prescribed in primary care.

The report highlights that a balance needs to be struck between avoiding prescribing that might lead to dependence or other harms and ensuring proper access to medicines to relieve suffering and treat disorders with. The report notes that clinical guidance recommending more cautious and time limited prescribing of benzodiazepines may well have been effective in changing practice, with reductions in the extent and length of benzodiazepine prescribing. It also suggests close and ongoing monitoring of opioid prescribing is needed. This independent research was commissioned and funded by the National Institute for Health Research Policy Research Programme. A copy of the report is attached.

In the light of this research, the Department has commissioned Public Health England to undertake an evidence review to better understand the scope of the problem of prescribed drug dependence.

The review will bring together the best available evidence on prevalence and prescribing; the nature and likely causes of dependence or withdrawal among some people who continue to take these medicines; and effective prevention and treatment responses for each indication.

The recently-updated National Clinical Guidelines for Drug Misuse and Dependence, Drug misuse and dependence: UK guidelines on clinical management, have specific guidance about pharmacological management of dependence on benzodiazepines and z-drugs, including prescribing regimens, detoxification, adjunctive therapies and monitoring. The guidelines are attached.

There is relevant National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance available for primary care prescribers for example on benzodiazepine and z-drug withdrawal.

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