Nearly 8 percent of Croatians use anti-anxiety drugs every day, report shows

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According to the latest report by the national medicines agency Halmed, the use of anti-anxiety drugs in Croatia is on the rise, with the national health fund spending some 90 million kuna (€12 million) on the five most commonly prescribed drugs of that type in 2017.

The total spending on drugs used to treat the central nervous system was 834 million kuna (112 million) in 2017, which includes a wide variety of medicines, including those used to treat schizophrenia and other serious mental disorders. However, the total spending on drugs has been on the rise in recent years, including the spending on anti-anxiety drugs from that group, Vecernji List daily reported on Tuesday.

According to Halmed data, Croatians had spent 36 million kuna (€4.9 million) on diazepam-based anti-anxiety prescription drugs, such as Valium or Normabel. These were followed by alprazolam-based drugs such as Xanax, which had sales totalling 26 million kuna (€3.5 million).

These two were ranked fifth and ninth in the top ten list of most commonly used medicines in the country, with Halmed saying that in 2007 some 76 out of every 1,000 Croatians took at least one of them every day.

The data was compiled and released by Halmed, which publishes yearly statistics on the rate of usage of drugs per 1,000 people, the spending on drugs, and ranks them by their generic names.

The data showed that in 2015 the national health fund had spent 31.5 million kuna (4.2 million) on prescriptions for diazepam, which rose to 33.2 million (4.5 million) in 2016, and increased again in 2017 to 36.1 million (4.9 million).

A similar increase is seen in the daily dosage prescribed to patients, the head of Croatia’s chamber of pharmacists, Ana Soldo, told Vecernji List. She added that apart from the prescription drugs using diazepam or alprazolam – which are on the health fund’s reimbursement list, meaning they are free for patients – other over-the-counter anxiety drugs are also popular.

“Nearly all those anti-anxiety medicines are on the public health fund’s reimbursement list. But in Croatia we also have herbal drugs and food supplements intended to be used by patients who have difficulty sleeping, or experience anxiety,” Soldo said.

The main ingredient in such drugs is valerian extract, and according to Halmed, Croatians spent another 3.4 million kuna (460,000) on this type of drugs in 2017.

Over the period from 2013 to 2017, the doses prescribed and the spending on insomnia and anxiety drugs rose by 8 percent. By region, the highest usage of anti-anxiety drugs per capita is highest in the Koprivnica-Krizevci County in central Croatia, where it is nearly double from the usage in Istria, which is bottom of the list, Vecernji List reported.

(1 = 7.42 kuna)

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