Warning about the overprescribing sleeping medicines welcomed by GPs

Warning about the overprescribing sleeping medicines welcomed by GPs

A warning from the Medical Council about the overprescribing of anxiety and sleeping medicines, has been welcomed by GPs.

Dr Tom O’Dowd, former professor of general practice at Trinity College said that the warning will help GPs to explain the dangers to patients demanding repeat prescriptions.

“We will be able to say to patients, look this gets you in trouble and it gets me in trouble, it could put a restriction on my licence to prescribe,” he told RTÉ Radio’s Morning Ireland.

The warning from the Medical Council warns GPs that they could face an investigation if found over prescribing certain medications in particular benzodiazepines, which are used to treat severe anxiety or sleeping problems.

Dr Tom O’Dowd, former professor of general practice at Trinity College
Dr Tom O’Dowd, former professor of general practice at Trinity College

“This is a big issue for GPs and we have been calling for help for a long time,” he added.

“Every clinic I have there are three to four patients who want more (benzodiazepines). I’m very conflicted as they’re quite dependant on them.

Most GPs are in a bind as they’re very effective in the short term. But that state expires after six week and they want more to keep that feeling.

Dr O’Dowd warned that depression is a very complex illness as is its treatment. While benzodiazepines are very effective in the short term some patients develop a tolerance for the drug and there are “vast differences” in the way people metabolise the drug, he said.

“If a patient becomes dependant on them and starts asking for benzos when the doctor is not willing to prescribe, that is difficult.

“When the repeat benzos (sic) are not available that induces a feeling of panic.

“I think the warning is helpful.”

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