The latest Public Health England (PHE) report on prescription medications is evidence of a “severe lack of alternatives to drug therapies for many conditions”, according to Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).
The report stated that one in four adults in England were prescribed benzodiazepines, z-drugs, gabapentinoids, opioids, or antidepressants in 2017-2018. Between 2015 to 2016 and 2017 to 2018 the rate of prescribing for antidepressants increased from 15.8 per cent of the adult population to 16.6 per cent and for gabapentinoids from 2.9 per cent to 3.3 per cent.
Responding to the report, Professor Stokes-Lampard said: "This report analyses prescribing data for medications that when prescribed appropriately can be effective and beneficial for many patients and it shows that the vast majority of prescriptions issued are short term, and that we are seeing a decline in opioid prescriptions for chronic pain, both of which are encouraging trends.
"What it also indicates is the severe lack of alternatives to drug therapies for many conditions and, where effective alternatives are known and exist, inadequate and unequal access to them across the country,” she said.
"Whilst the vast majority of prescriptions will be appropriate, if we are to reverse the prescribing trends outlined in this report, GPs need better access for our patients to alternative therapies in the community. We also need more high-quality research into alternatives to drug therapies in general as well as around dependence and withdrawal, and for this to shape the clinical guidelines that GPs use to inform our practice," she stated.