12 januari 2016. Starting today, tapering strips for oxazepam tablets are available in The Netherlands. A tapering strip is a pharmacotherapeutic tool that helps patients safely reduce the dose of a drug, or stop using the drug entirely.
What is the problem? Why tapering strips?
Phasing out anxyolitics, antidepressants, antipsychotics and other drugs can be very problematic. The rate of phasing out is crucial. Tapering too quickly can lead to withdrawal symptoms that can be so severe that patients either cannot stop using the drug or cannot reduce its dosage without great difficulty. This results in unnecessary suffering, lower quality of life, unnecessarily prolonged use of drugs and unnecessary use of medical and psychological care at high social and societal cost.
Tapering strips offer a solution for this problem. They enable a gradual reduction of the dosage or even termination of usage, and in a tempo chosen by the patient. Shared decision-making offers patients more responsibility for their own treatment and enhances patient-compliance.
First experiences with tapering strips.
The first tapering strips for paroxetine in The Netherlands were realised in December 2013. Patients and prescribers have since indicated that they indeed work as intended. They report that phasing out via the tapering strips is easier and gives much fewer problems in comparison with their previous attempts; for example patients report fewer or no side effects due to withdrawal.
The availability of different drugs in tapering-strip form is an initiative of Cinderella Therapeutics. In 2010, Cinderella started “Project Tapering”, based on an idea that many patients had proposed over the years. The main purpose of the project is the realisation of tapering strips for drugs for which stopping or dose-reduction is a problem. Currently, tapering strips are available for the antidepressants paroxetine and venlafaxine and for the anxyolitics diazepam, oxazapam and temazepam.