In France, the implementation of new prescribing rules for the sedative-hypnotic drug zolpidem led to an immediate decrease in use, according to a new study. This decline was partially compensated for by a rise in the use of a nonbenzodiazepine drug called zopiclone.

In 2017, French health authorities made it mandatory to use a secure prescribing form for zolpidem, which is a popular insomnia drug in France and one of the drugs most involved in falsified prescribing and diversion.

A time-series analysis of national prescription drug reimbursement records from 2015 to 2018 published in Annals of Family Medicine shows the impact of France’s regulations, with prescribing of zolpidem cut in half when comparing rates before and after the policy change. Nearly equal and opposite increases in zopiclone were seen during this same time period.

The change in prescribing policies resulted in a shift to the alternative drug zopiclone—a trend that has been seen among prescribing restriction efforts, including restrictions on benzodiazepines.