Discontinuation of oxazepam tablets

Oxazepam will no longer be available in New Zealand once current stocks are exhausted. This is expected to be from mid-October 2020 (10 mg tablets) to mid-November 2020 (15 mg tablets). See the notification from PHARMAC here.

Oxazepam is a short-acting benzodiazepine, with a half-life of about 6 hours.

For patients currently taking oxazepam:

  1. Consider whether a benzodiazepine is still clinically indicated:
    1. Benzodiazepines are associated with considerable adverse effects, including dependency, and an increased risk of falls and cognitive impairment, especially in elderly people.
  2. Do not stop oxazepam suddenly if it has been used regularly for more than 2 weeks:
    1. Acute withdrawal of benzodiazepines can cause seizures, delirium, confusion, anxiety, insomnia, tremor, headache, paraesthesia, mood changes and agitation.
    2. A gradual taper should be used to improve the rate of successful discontinuation and minimise withdrawal effects.
    3. The New Zealand Formulary has advice for benzodiazepine withdrawal here.
  3. Consider alternative options to benzodiazepines for long-term management of the patient’s condition. See advice on Canterbury Community HealthPathways for anxiety or BPAC for anxiety and insomnia.
  4. If treatment with a benzodiazepine is still necessary, lorazepam (for anxiety or insomnia) or temazepam (for insomnia) are the closest alternatives to oxazepam with respect to their half-lives. See the New Zealand Formulary for approximate equivalent doses.

Health professionals are welcome to contact our service for more specific advice on individual patients.