Despite years of warnings about the hazards of prescribing benzodiazepines for the elderly, these drugs continue to be used at a higher rate than what is considered appropriate in older Americans — particularly older women, new data show.
A recent report released by Athena Health shows that individuals older than 65 years are prescribed benzodiazepines — including alprazolam (multiple brands), lorazepam (multiple brands), diazepam (multiple brands), and clonazepam (Klonapin, Roche) — more than other age groups are.
In 2017, 8.4% of individuals aged 65 and older were prescribed one of the drugs, a drop from 8.7% the previous year. Just over 8% of 50- to 64-year-olds were prescribed a benzodiazepine in 2017, compared to 7.5% of those aged 40 to 49 and 6.6% of those aged 30 to 39.
Ten percent of women older than 65 were prescribed a benzodiazepine, compared to just under 6% of men.
The data come from a sample of 3 million patients treated by primary care providers who are part of the Athena Health data network.
The data "are consistent with earlier research that suggests significant benzodiazepine overuse, especially among older adults," Mark Olfson, MD, MPH, professor of psychiatry and epidemiology, Columbia University, New York City, told Medscape Medical News.