Vol 69, No 1 (2018)
Original article
Published online: 2018-03-28

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Benzodiazepine prescriptions on merchant ships without a doctor on board: analysis from medical records of Centro Internazionale Radio Medico (CIRM)

Giulio Nittari1, Graziano Pallotta1, Marzio Di Canio2, Enea Traini1, Francesco Amenta12
Pubmed: 29611611
IMH 2018;69(1):28-34.


Background: Benzodiazepines are drugs widely used for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. The present study has analysed the prescriptions of this class of drugs among sailing seafarers, to evaluate the appropriateness of prescribed therapies.

Materials and methods: This study assessed the benzodiazepine prescriptions made by Centro Internazionale Radio Medico (CIRM) doctors from 2011 to 2015. A total of 17,844 medical records were examined. Analysis considered the prescriptions of benzodiazepines in monotherapy, or in association with other drugs. Diagnoses of pathologies for which benzodiazepines were prescribed were made according to the ICD-10 classification system proposed by the World Health Organisation.

Results: Among medical records analysed, benzodiazepines were prescribed in 765 cases (3.29% of total cases assisted by CIRM). Benzodiazepines were prescribed as a single-drug treatment in 626 (81.83%) cases, whereas in 139 cases they were associated with other classes of drugs. In case of opioids prescribed in association with benzodiazepines, the drug used was codeine. This therapeutic association was prescribed in cases of severe pain.

Conclusions: Although the “off label” use of benzodiazepines is not uncommon in medical practice, clear evidence indicates their potential side effects for human health. In this respect, medical professionals should comply with international guidelines on the use of benzodiazepines, both when prescribed as a single drug or in combination with other classes of drugs. These recommendations should be considered seriously in case of limited medical facilities such as on board of sailing ships.  

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