GPs welcome Medical Council warning on benzodiazepines

Doctors could face investigation if found over prescribing benzodiazepines and other similar drugs

A warning from the Medical Council about the overprescribing of anxiety and sleeping medicines, has been welcomed by GPs. File photograph: Getty Images

A warning from the Medical Council about the overprescribing of anxiety and sleeping medicines, has been welcomed by GPs. File photograph: Getty Images

 

A warning from the Medical Council about the overprescribing of anxiety and sleeping medicines, has been welcomed by GPs.

Dr Tom O’Dowd, former professor of general practice at Trinity College Dublin said the warning would help GPs to explain the dangers to patients demanding repeat prescriptions.

“We will be able to say to patients, look this gets you in trouble and it gets me in trouble, it could put a restriction on my licence to prescribe,” he told RTÉ radio.

The Medical Council said doctors could face an investigation if found to be overprescribing certain medications in particular benzodiazepines, which are used to treat severe anxiety or sleeping problems.

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.

“This is a big issue for GPs and we have been calling for help for a long time,” Dr O’Dowd said.

“Every clinic I have there are three to four patients who want more (benzodiazepines). I’m very conflicted as they’re quite dependant on them.

“Most GPs are in a bind as they’re very effective in the short term. But that state expires after six week and they want more to keep that feeling.”

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”.

Dr O’Dowd said depression was a very complex illness as was its treatment.

While benzodiazepines were very effective in the short term, some patients developed a tolerance for the drug and there were “vast differences” in the way people metabolise the drug, he said.

“If a patient becomes dependant on them and starts asking for benzos when the doctor is not willing to prescribe, that is difficult.

“When the repeat benzos are not available that induces a feeling of panic. I think the warning is helpful.”