Policies have been put in place internationally to reduce the overuse of certain medications that have a high risk of harm, such as sedative-hypnotic drugs for insomnia or opioids for chronic non-cancer pain. We explore and compare the outcomes of policies aimed at deprescribing sedative-hypnotic medication in community-dwelling older adults. Prescription monitoring policies led to the highest rate of discontinuation but triggered inappropriate substitutions. Financial deterrents through insurance scheme delistings increased patient out-of-pocket spending and had minimal impact. Pay-for-performance incentives to prescribers proved ineffective. Rescheduling alprazolam to a controlled substance raised the street drug price of the drug and shifted use to other benzodiazepines, causing similar rates of overdose deaths. Driving safety policies and jurisdiction-wide educational campaigns promoting non-drug alternatives appear most promising for achieving intended outcomes and avoiding unintended harms. Sustainable change should be supported with direct-to-patient education and improved access to non-drug therapy, with an emphasis on evaluating both intended and unintended consequences of any deprescribing-oriented policy.
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