OBJECTIVE: To describe Norwegian general practitioners' (GPs') prescription patterns of benzodiazepines, Z-hypnotics and opioid analgesics (BZO-drugs) to elderly (≥70 years) patients. DESIGN, SUBJECTS AND SETTING: Cross sectional, observational study. Contact- and prescription data from 148 Norwegian GPs, issued for elderly patients during eight months in 2008. GP-patient contacts were categorized as direct contacts (DC: face-to-face consultations) or indirect contacts (IC: via third party, phone or mail). Explanatory variables were characteristics linked to the GPs, patients, and practices. During analyses, GPs' number of listed patients, share of which for elderly patients, and total number of patient consultations during the period (proxy for practice activity), were categorized in quintiles (Q1-5) by number of GPs. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Number of BZO-drug prescriptions and quantities issued during direct- and indirect GP-patient contacts. RESULTS: In total, 62% of BZO-prescriptions were issued during ICs. Of all prescriptions, 66% were large quantum packages (50 tablets or more), 62% out of which were prescribed during ICs. During the study period, 50% of the patients received repeat prescriptions. Prescribing during ICs was associated with low over all practice activity (Q1) and many (Q5) older patients on the GP's lists. CONCLUSION: GPs' BZO-drug prescribing to elderly occur more frequently during ICs than within DCs, and are more commonly issued as large quantity packages. This indicates that regular- or long-term use among elderly is common, contrasting with previous and current national guidelines, which recommend regular clinical assessments and short time or intermittent use of BZO-drugs. Key Points GPs frequently prescribe benzodiazepines, Z-hypnotics and opioid (BZO) drugs for elderly people. BZO-drugs are frequently issued during indirect GP-patient contacts and in relatively large quantities, indicating regular or long-term use. GPs' BZO-drug prescribing patterns contrast with national guidelines recommending clinical assessment and short time or intermittent use of BZO-drugs.
General practitioners' prescriptions of benzodiazepines, Z-hypnotics and opioid analgesics for elderly patients during direct and indirect contacts. A cross-sectional, observational study.
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