One in four adults in England were prescribed benzodiazepines, z-drugs, gabapentinoids, opioids or antidepressants in the year 2017 to 2018, according to new figures published by Public Health England (PHE).
The Prescribed medicines review report published yesterday (10 September 2019) shows that, in 2017-2018, 11.5 million adults in England (26% of the adult population) received one or more prescriptions for antidepressants (7.3 million), opioids (5.6 million), gabapentinoids (1.5 million), benzodiazepines (1.4 million) or z-drugs (1.0 million).
Between 2015 to 2016 and 2017 to 2018, the rate of prescribing 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. There was a small decrease in prescribing rates for the other three medicine classes.
Rates of prescribing were higher for women (1.5 times those of men), and the rates generally increased with age, although there were large variations at the level of Clinical Commissioning Groups. The rate of prescribing and the time receiving a prescription increased with deprivation.
Commenting on the report, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) said it is currently working on guidelines regarding safe prescribing and withdrawal of prescription medicines.
Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, said: “We welcome this important work from Public Health England."
"NICE is developing a guideline on the safe prescribing and withdrawal of prescribed drugs. The proposed scope of this guideline should complement the evidence review. We are consulting on the proposed scope until the end of the month,” he said.