Prescribing alerts could cut opioid and benzodiazepine coprescribing

Researchers have found that an electronic alert system significantly reduced coprescribing in patients with sleep apnoea and people at risk of suicide.

Benzodiazepine, anxiolytic pills

An electronic medical record alert system could potentially reduce coprescribing and related overdose deaths, researchers have found[1]

In a 12-month study published in Medical Care (1 February 2018), the alert system, which notifies the prescribers of opioid and benzodiazepine coprescribing in people with high-risk conditions, such as substance abuse and suicide risk, was activated for 1,332 patients.

The researchers found that coprescribing decreased significantly by 38.5% in people with sleep apnoea and by 61.5% in people at risk of suicide, compared to coprescribing prior to the alert launch.

However, among people who had been receiving long-term coprescribed benzodiazepines and opioids, coprescribing remained at 69% six months after the alert.

The researchers said: “Medication alerts hold promise as a means of reducing opioid and benzodiazepine coprescribing among certain high-risk groups”. However, they added that further research should explore whether this is more effective when used in combination with other interventions.

“Given current trends in overdose deaths involving opioids and benzodiazepines, tools to assist prescribers in reducing coprescribing are needed.”


[1] Malte C, Berger D, Saxon A et al. Electronic medical record alert associated with reduced opioid and benzodiazepine coprescribing in high-risk veteran patients. Med Care 2018;56(2):171–178. doi: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000000861

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, July 2018, Vol 10, No 7;10(7):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2018.20204910

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