Clinical pharmacist intervention to engage older adults in reducing use of alprazolam

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OBJECTIVE: To assess whether a letter explaining the risks of alprazolam can engage older adults to call a clinical pharmacist (CP) to initiate reduction in alprazolam use. DESIGN: Randomized, controlled study. SETTING: Integrated health care delivery system. PATIENTS: Patients 65 years of age and older who resided at home, had a current supply of alprazolam as of December 15, 2016, and had four outpatient dispensings of alprazolam during the previous 12 months. INTERVENTION: Patients were randomized to receive an educational outreach regarding alprazolam use reduction via a mailed letter (intervention group) or receive usual care (control group). Intervention patients/caregivers were requested to call the CP to discuss reduction of alprazolam use. For intervention patients who called and consented to participate, alternative treatment options were discussed on a case-by-case basis. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Composite rate of 1) no alprazolam dispensing, 2) an alprazolam dose reduction, or 3) interchange to an alternative medication during the six-month follow-up. RESULTS: 153 and 173 patients were and were not, respectively, sent a letter. The mean age was 73 years and patients primarily were female. Thirty (19.6%) intervention patients called the CP. The composite rate was equivalent between the intervention (34.0%) and control (35.3%) groups (P = 0.822). In subanalyses, the composite rate was higher among intervention patients who did vs. those who did not call the CP (77.8% vs. 27.6%; P < 0.001). CONCLUSION: A low-cost patient educational outreach coupled with CP care efficiently engaged older adults in benzodiazepine use reduction process; however, alprazolam continues to be a challenging medication for patients to discontinue.

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