Benzodiazepine receptor agonist dispensations in Alberta: a population-based descriptive study

Daniala L Weir, Salim Samanani, Fizza Gilani, Ed Jess, Dean T Eurich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: There is increasing concern over the use of benzodiazepine receptor agonists (BZRAs). The objective of this study was to describe BZRA dispensations in the province of Alberta in 2015 according to age, sex and appropriateness.

METHODS: A population-based descriptive study of people 10 years of age or older with at least 1 BZRA dispensation in Alberta, Canada, between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2015, was conducted. Prevalence of BZRA use, characteristics of BZRAs dispensations, use at the individual level and appropriateness were determined.

RESULTS: A total of 372 870 people received 2 463 585 BZRA dispensations in Alberta in 2015. Prevalence of use at the population level was 10% overall, increased with age (p value for trend < 0.001) and was consistently highest among females. Twenty percent of patients used both Z-drugs and benzodiazepines. BZRA users had an average of 7 dispensations (standard deviation [SD] 20), 137 days of use overall (SD 123) and a maximum period of consecutive use of 90 days (SD 95). Days of consecutive use were highest among those aged 65 years or older (126 d). A total of 62 795 (17%) people used more than 1 distinct BZRA ingredient concurrently and 10% had 3 or more distinct prescribers.

INTERPRETATION: The prevalence of BZRA use was high and a substantial proportion of use appeared to be potentially inappropriate. This study supports the need for continued monitoring for the prescribing and use of these medications at the population level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)E678-E684
Number of pages7
JournalCMAJ open
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 29 Dec 2018


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