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Hot off the press: The 2021 Opioid & Benzodiazepine/Z-drug and Antibiotic Prescription Atlases

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January Messenger 2023, TPP Alberta | Posted January 19, 2023
Read time: 2 minutes

Produced annually by TPP Alberta, our Opioid & Benzodiazepine and Antibiotic Prescription Atlases contain detailed data on prescribing of these drugs in Alberta.

Opioid and benzodiazepines/z-drugs (BDZ/Z) highlights

  • Just over 1.4 million opioid prescriptions were dispensed in 2021. Codeine was the most commonly prescribed, followed by tramadol.
  • Prescribing for opioid agonist treatments (OAT) continued to increase. Numbers for buprenorphine have tripled since 2016, while methadone prescriptions have almost doubled over the past six years.
  • Over one million benzodiazepine/Z-drug prescriptions were dispensed in Alberta in 2021, with zopiclone and lorazepam being the most commonly prescribed.
  • 4% of the population received one or more BDZ/Z prescription in 2021, compared to 9.1% in 2016—a drop of almost one fifth.
  • Almost one third of BDZ/Z patients are 65 years of age or older, even though they make up less than 15% of Alberta’s population.
  • In the elderly population, 103,977 patients received one or more BDZ/Z prescriptions, a rate 25% higher than for the whole population.

In 2021, the number of patients and dosage were both reduced from the previous years for both opioids and BDZ/Zs. A preliminary analysis of OAT dispense patterns suggests many patients may be receiving care via virtual services, given the large geographical distances between prescriber and pharmacy addresses.

Antibiotic use in numbers

  • Just over 2.2 million antibiotic prescriptions were dispensed in Alberta in 2021, down from 3.2 million in 2016.
  • 27% of the population (1,221,148 patients) received one or more antibiotic prescriptions in 2021, compared to 37% in 2016 (1,573,696 patients), a drop of almost one quarter.
  • More than 80% of patients received prescriptions from physicians, followed by dentists (19%) and pharmacists (8%).
  • The number of patients receiving antibiotic prescriptions from more than one prescriber in 2021 was only 63% of those in 2016.

TPP Alberta plays an important role in the healthcare system by collecting data and reporting on monitored drugs. The Atlases are valuable resources which can be used to inform policies, strategies and programs across Alberta, and to encourage positive changes to prescribing practices for the benefit of patients.

To learn more, review both 2021 Atlases:

You can find past issues of the TPP Atlases in our archive.


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