Accepted Paper:

Benzodiazepines trajectory in Uruguay: implications for public health  


Andrea Bielli (Universidad de la República, Uruguay)
Gabriela Bruno (Universidad de la República, Uruguay)
Nancy Calisto (Universidad de la República, Uruguay)
Santiago Navarro (Universidad de la República, Uruguay)
María Pilar Bacci Mañaricua (Universidad de la República, Uruguay)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the trajectory of benzodiazepines in Uruguay's health system, where recently these drugs have been deemed a public health problem. We trace the evolution of local academic discussions and regulatory measures from their introduction to this Latin American country up to the present.

Paper long abstract:

This paper analyzes the trajectory of benzodiazepines in Uruguay and its implication on public health. The use of benzodiazepines led to a major international debate especially during the 1980s, but Uruguayan authorities and physicians have never been engaged in an active discussion about it.

While benzodiazepine use grew up in the country, some professionals were concerned about the overprescription of these pharmaceuticals but there was never an specific policy developed by the health authorities. Today, benzodiazepines are still commonly used, especially by general practitioners, and long-term users are not exceptional in Uruguay. And while some physicians believe the debate on benzodiazepines is "outdated", benzodiazepines have very recently been deemed by a local group of academics a national public health problem.

This paper traces the evolution of academic discussions and health authorities' measures over benzodiazepines since from their introduction to the country up to the present. We discuss how a controversy that seems closed in other countries, is still open and has clear implications for the public health in a Latin American country like Uruguay. To do this, we will build on the analysis of national academic papers on benzodiazepines published from 1960 to 2015, 35 in-detph interviews to general practitioners, family physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists, and two health authorities. This paper contributes to the field of pharmaceutical studies and the discussion on pharmaceuticals and public health policy from the particular case of a country that is strongly dependent on international pharmaceutical knowledge production and international regulatory policies.

Panel T017
STS for pharmaceuticals and public health policy