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Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2010 Mar;19(3):280-8. doi: 10.1002/pds.1899.

Anxiolytic, hypnotic and sedative medication use in Australia.

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School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Herston QLD 4006, Australia.



New sedative drugs have been marketed in Australia in the last few years. We examined the trends in the prescribing of subsidised anxiolytic, hypnotic and sedative (AHS) medication use in the Australian population from 2002 to 2007.


We analysed the Medicare Australia and Drug Utilisation Sub-Committee databases for AHS script data from 2002 to 2007 by source, class of prescriber, gender and 5-year age groups. Scripts were converted to defined daily dose per 1000 population per day (DDD/1000 population/day) using Australian Bureau of Statistics population data.


Overall use of AHS increased from 23.76 to 24.11 DDD/1000 population/day between 2002 and 2007. Anxiolytic medication utilisation increased as hypnotic medication utilisation decreased. Diazepam was the most widely used anxiolytic followed by alprazolam and oxazepam. Temazepam was the most widely used hypnotic followed by nitrazepam. Medication use was concentrated in those aged > or = 65 years with peak use in those aged 85-89 years. There was substantial use of anxiolytics in those aged 30-65 years. Age-adjusted utilization was higher in females than males.


The prescribing of AHS medications increased slightly over the last half decade. There is growing use of zolpidem on private prescription. The gender differences in use reflect the higher prevalence of anxiety and sleep disorders in women. The very high use of these drugs in elderly people warrants further exploration because of the concomitant increased risks of mortality and morbidity.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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