Press Release

Micheál Martin, T.D. Minister for Health & Children Launches Report of the Benzodiazepine Committee and Good Practice Guidelines for Clinicians

Mr. Micheál Martin, T.D., Minister for Health and Children today launched the Report of the Benzodiazepine Committee and its Good Practice Guidelines for Clinicians.

The Committee was set up by Minister Martin in June 2000 to “examine the current prescribing and use of benzodiazepines; to consider recommendations on good prescribing and dispensing practice, paying particular attention to the management of drug misusers and to make recommendations as appropriate”.

The Committee also developed Good Practice Guidelines and these are published as a separate document. Both the Committee´s Good Practice Guidelines for Clinicians and the Report are being disseminated nationwide to all general practitioners and to health boards.

The Report and Good Practice Guidelines envisages the continued use of benzodiazepines as versatile and valuable drugs in clinical medicine, through the fostering of rational prescribing practices of these drugs for all groups of patients. In this way, the prevalence of inappropriate use of the benzodiazepines would be greatly reduced, leading to a significant reduction in the number of patients becoming dependent on them and also to reduced consumption by known opiate misusers.

Overall the Report makes 24 recommendations including a recommendation that monitoring systems be put in place in order to inform practitioners of their prescribing patterns and allow appropriate action where there is a suspicion of irresponsible prescribing.

The Report signals the need for greater awareness among professionals and the general public in relation to the use of benzodiazepines and makes a number of recommendations in this area. It also recommends ongoing evaluation and monitoring into the use and misuse of benzodiazepines in Ireland, particularly in the private sector and among older people and particular recommendations are made in relation to drug misusers attending drug treatment clinics.

The Committee´s membership included representatives from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland, the Irish College of General Practitioners, An Bord Altranais and the Royal College of Psychiatrists. The National Drug Strategy 2001-2008 has as one of its actions the implementation of the recommendations of the Benzodiazepine Report as part of the overall strategy of quality improvement of current services contained in the Report will be overseen by the Department of Health and Children.

Launching the Report, the Minister noted the vital role of awareness raising among both the medical profession and the general public in relation to the proper use of benzodiazepines.

Noting that implementation of the Report would require the co-operation of a number of key players across a range of sectors, the Minister said: “I am confident that this co-operation together with a heightened public awareness of the risks inherent in inappropriate use will result in a reduction of misuse and dependency in this country. Moreover, I have no doubt that this outcome can be achieved while maintaining the status of these particular drugs as versatile and valuable drugs in the field of clinical medicine”.