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PHE calls for more scrutiny of prescription drug addiction

One in five people prescribed gabapentinoids for more than a year

September 17th 2019

Tagged: Clinical Zone news

By Ailsa Colquhoun

Public Health England has called for improved management, and greater use of data supporting the prescribing of medicines that can cause dependence or withdrawal.

This follows a new report, which finds that one in five patients prescribed gabapentinoids were taking them for at least 12 months.

The report by Public Health England is the first to attempt to identify the scale, distribution and causes of prescription drug dependence, and remedial options. The review covered adults (aged 18 and over) and five classes of medicines:

  • benzodiazepines
  • z-drugs
  • gabapentin and pregabalin
  • opioids for chronic non-cancer pain
  • antidepressants

Key findings include the following:

  • In 2017 to 2018, 11.5 million adults in England (26 per cent of the adult population) received, and had dispensed, one or more prescriptions
  • The proportion estimated to have received a prescription continuously from June 2015 for at least 12 months varied from 5 per cent (benzodiazepines) to almost 20 per cent (gabapentinoids)
  • Higher initial opioid doses and prior mental health problems were associated with long-term use of opioids and opioid dependence, respectively. Prescribing opioid pain medicines for longer than 90 days was associated with opioid overdose and dependence
  • Low income and use of shorter-acting benzodiazepines are associated with long-term benzodiazepine use
  • Between 2015 to 2016 and 2017 to 2018 the rate of prescribing for antidepressants increased from 15.8 per cent of the adult population to 16.6 per cent and for gabapentinoids from 2.9 per cent to 3.3 per cent
  • Rates of prescribing were higher for women (1.5 times those of men), and the rates generally increased with age.