Trends in prescribing of sedative-hypnotic medications in the USA: 1993–2010

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Purpose: Non-benzodiazepine receptor agonists (nBZRAs) were developed as an alternative to benzodiazepines (BZDs) to treat insomnia. Little is known about how the introduction of nBZRAs influenced trends in BZD prescribing. We examined BZD and nBZRA prescribing trends from 1993 to 2010. Methods: We used the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to examine 516,118 patient visits between 1993 and 2010. We categorized visits as BZD, nBZRA, or BZD + nBZRA visits based on medications prescribed in each visit and applied linear probability regression models to assess trends in visits. Results: Increases were observed in proportions of visits that were BZD (2.6% in 1993 to 4.4% in 2010, p < 0.001) and nBZRA (0% to 1.4%, p < 0.001). Increases in BZD visits were primarily after 2002, with prescribing in the preceding years remaining relatively stable. We also found increases in BZD + nBZRA visits (0% to 0.4%, p < 0.001). Among patients with sleep disorders, there was an increase in nBZRA visits (2.3% to 13.7%, p < 0.001), and decline in BZD visits (23.5% to 10.8%, p = 0.015). Just under a third (30.8%) of any sedative-hypnotic visits were for adults aged 65+ years, among whom increases in BZD, nBZRA, and BZD + nBZRA visits were observed across the study period. Conclusions: There were increases in prescribing of nBZRAs between 1993 and 2010. Increases in prescribing of BZDs were also observed, especially after 2002. The introduction of nBZRAs likely resulted in declines in BZD prescribing among those with a sleep disorder, but not other groups. Delivery of behavioral treatments should be encouraged to avert adverse outcomes associated with sedative-hypnotic use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)637-645
Number of pages9
JournalPharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016


  • anxiety
  • pharmacoepidemiology
  • prescribing trends
  • sedative-hypnotics
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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