Open Access Research article

Discontinuation of reimbursement of benzodiazepines in the Netherlands: does it make a difference?

Boudewijn J Kollen1*, Willem Jan van der Veen2, Feikje Groenhof1, Gé A Donker13 and Klaas van der Meer1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of General Practice, University Medical Centre Groningen, University of Groningen, Ant. Deusinglaan 1, Groningen, 9713 AV, The Netherlands

2 Municipal Health Services Drenthe, Assen, The Netherlands

3 Health Centre De Weide, Hoogeveen, The Netherlands

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BMC Family Practice 2012, 13:111  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-13-111

Published: 21 November 2012



In an attempt to control chronic benzodiazepine use and its costs in the Netherlands, health care insurance reimbursement of this medication was stopped on January 1st 2009. This study investigates whether benzodiazepine prescriptions issued by general practitioners changed during the first two years following implementation of this regulation.


Registry study based on data from all benzodiazepine users derived from the Registration Network Groningen. This general practice-based research network collects longitudinal data on the primary care administered to about 30,000 patients. Based on the number of quarterly accumulated prescription days, a comparison was made of benzodiazepine prescriptions issued between 2007/2008 and 2009/2010. Also investigated was which type of user (i.e. short-term or long-term) showed the most change.


Information on benzodiazepine prescriptions among 5,200 patients from 16 consecutive trimesters between 2007 and 2010 was available for analysis. A significant reduction in prescription days was observed between 2007/2008 and 2009/2010. Overall, an estimated 1.73 (CI:-1.94 to -1.53; p<0.001) days were less prescribed per trimester after the termination of reimbursement. In particular, short-term users experienced a reduction in prescription days in 2009 and 2010. The number of long-term users decreased by 2.3%, while the number of individuals that did not use increased by 4.2%.


A total reduction of almost 14 prescription days was observed over eight trimesters after implementation of the regulation to terminate the reimbursement of benzodiazepines. Short-term users were mainly responsible for this reduction in prescription days in 2009 and 2010. Although long-term users did not alter their benzodiazepine use in 2009 and 2010, the number of long-term users decreased slightly.