PHRC Phase 2 (2011-2019) projects – Cross-cutting projects

Prescribing patterns of dependence forming medicines – analysis using the Clinical Practice Research Database

Lead investigator

Sally McManus, National Centre for Social Research (NatCen)


There is growing concern about the potential risks associated with the long-term prescription of dependence forming medicines (DFM). However, there is a lack of empirical evidence about the nature and extent of

this problem. Previously, the Department of Health (DH) commissioned the National Addiction Centre (NAC) to undertake a statistical analysis and literature review on this topic. However, due to data limitations, the statistical analysis was able to explore only broad patterns of DFM prescribing. Some gaps were highlighted, notably about the conditions present when prescribed medicines, and the doses and length of treatment. The NAC suggested that the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD) would be an alternative and preferable source to study patterns of prescribing DFM in more depth.

Aims and methods

The chief aim of this project is to explore patterns of prescribing of specific DFM in more depth than was previously done. More specifically, the research will attempt to clarify the extent to which these are being prescribed by GPs, and explore the characteristics of prescriptions (type of medication; condition prescribed for; length and dose of prescription) and of patients being prescribed.

Patterns of prescribing DFM will be explored using individuals’ medical records from the CPRD. First, a data assessment of relevant records will be conducted. Then, provided the items reviewed are suitable for the purpose, descriptive analysis will be implemented to achieve the research aims. The existing literature review on the topic will also be updated, focusing on the UK.


  • Dr Javiera Cartagena Farías, NatCen Social Research
  • Dr Neil Smith, NatCen Social Research
  • Lauren Porter, NatCen Social Research
  • Prof John Strang, King's College London
  • Dr Kylie Reed, King's College London
  • Professor Matthew Hickman, University of Bristol

01/01/2016 - 31/03/2017 (15 months)