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Ann Fam Med. 2012 Jan-Feb;10(1):42-9. doi: 10.1370/afm.1319.

Reimbursement restriction and moderate decrease in benzodiazepine use in general practice.

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  • 1Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Clinical Pharmacology, Utrecht Institute for Pharmaceutical Sciences, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.



To limit misuse and save costs, on January 1, 2009, benzodiazepines were excluded from the Dutch reimbursement list when used as anxiolytic, hypnotic, or sedative. This study aims to assess the impact of this reimbursement restriction on benzodiazepine use in patients with newly diagnosed anxiety or sleeping disorder in general practice.


Was conducted a retrospective observational database study deriving data on diagnoses and prescriptions from the electronic health records-based Netherlands Information Network of General Practice (LINH). We looked for patients aged 18 years and older with an incident diagnosis of sleeping disturbance (International Classification of Primary Care code: P06) or anxiety (P74, P01) between January 2008 and December 2009. Incidence of these diagnoses, benzodiazepine use, and initiation of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) treatment was compared between 2008 and 2009.


In total, we identified 13,596 patients with an incident diagnosis of anxiety (3,769 in 2008 and 3,710 in 2009) or sleeping disorder (3,254 in 2008 and 2,863 in 2009). The proportion of patients being prescribed a benzodiazepine after a diagnosis was lower in 2009 than in 2008 for both anxiety (30.1% vs. 33.7% P < .05) and sleeping disorder (59.1% vs. 67.0%, P < .05), as was the proportion of patients with more than 1 benzodiazepine prescription for both anxiety (36.4% vs. 42.6%, P < .05) and sleeping disorder (35.0% vs. 42.6%, P < .05). We found no increase in the use of alternative treatment for anxiety with SSRIs.


The reimbursement restriction has led to a moderate decrease in the number of incident diagnoses and initiation of benzodiazepine use in patients with newly diagnosed anxiety or sleeping disorder. This finding indicates that in settings where no such reimbursement opportunities exist, physicians have room to reduce benzodiazepine prescribing.

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