Community pharmacists' views on benzodiazepine prescribing and supply





The Benzodiazepine Committee was established in
2000 to investigate benzodiazepine prescribing and use in Ireland, and
to develop good practice guidelines. It has been widely documented
that benzodiazepines are often inappropriately prescribed and/
or misused. However, little research has been published on community
pharmacists’ role in benzodiazepine supply.
The main aim of this study was to assess the attitudes, experiences
and knowledge of community pharmacists regarding current benzodiazepine
policy and practices.
Materials & Methods:
The study consisted of an anonymous, self-administered,
postal questionnaire of community pharmacists. The
questionnaire was distributed to a random, geographically stratified
sample of 857 community pharmacies in Ireland. All viable data was
coded and entered into PASW Statistics 18.0 for analysis.
The response rate was 38%.
It was found that there is a low level of awareness (33%) among
community pharmacists of official sources of benzodiazepine guidelines
but that the vast majority (93%) agree that such guidelines are
relevant to them. A large proportion of pharmacists (47%) agree that
they have a professional responsibility to ensure prescriber adherence
to relevant guidelines.
Long-term benzodiazepine use, in contravention of prescribing
guidelines, was reported to be widespread. Community pharmacists
agree (77%) that they possess the necessary knowledge and skills to
engage with patients on the subject of benzodiazepine use and the vast
majority (83%) of them would be willing to play an active role in
initiating patients in benzodiazepine discontinuation/dosage reduction
Discussions, Conclusion:
The findings indicate that anticipated outcomes
of the Benzodiazepine Committee’s report have not been achieved, as
long-term prescribing and use is still perceived to be common.
Community pharmacists have acknowledged their potential and
willingness to play a role in ensuring benzodiazepine guideline
compliance and facilitating dosage reduction/discontinuation. This
could lead to improved benzodiazepine prescribing and use in primary
care. However a number of issues must be addressed, such as
the low level of guideline awareness. Given the large proportion of
pharmacists who agree that they have a professional responsibility to
ensure prescribers adhere to relevant guidelines, increasing community
pharmacists’ awareness of benzodiazepine guidelines could lead
to enhanced enforcement.

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