Doctors warned to reduce prescribing of sedatives

Inappropriate prescribing of benzodiazepines having corrosive effect on patients

The Medical Council said that inappropriate prescribing is ‘having a significant impact on patient safety and wellbeing’. File photograph: Getty

The Medical Council has warned doctors to reduce prescribing of benzodiazepines, Z-drugs and Pregabalin or face potential disciplinary investigation.

The Medical Council said that with its dual role of protecting patients and supporting doctors, it took a serious view of overprescribing of benzodiazepines, Z-drugs and Pregabalin.

Medical Council president Rita Doyle said the impact of inappropriate prescribing of benzodiazepines, Z-drugs, Pregabalin and other controlled drugs is "having a significant impact on patient safety and wellbeing".

The council said it is actively working with the Health Service Executive, Department of Health, Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland and medical profession to take action on overprescribing of such drugs nationally.


“If necessary, in order to protect the public, the Medical Council will take disciplinary action against medical practitioners in relation to the overprescribing of benzodiazepines, Z-drugs and Pregabalin.”

The council said benzodiazepines were a group of medicines that could be prescribed for short periods to help with sleeping problems, or to help with episodes of severe anxiety.

“They are not for long-term use and can be dangerous when a patient develops an overreliance or a dependency on these drugs,” it said.

Dr Doyle said: “While benzodiazepines may have a role in the treatment of a patient on a time-limited basis, caution and strict monitoring are required when they are prescribed. Patients who become dependent upon benzodiazepines should be referred to the appropriate drug treatment services and provided with appropriate supports . . . we acknowledge and appreciate the challenges faced by practitioners, the difficulties some practices are experiencing in terms of benzodiazepine and Z-drug usage, and the demands from some patients for this and similar types of medication.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent