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Papers of the Week

Papers: 19 Jan 2019 - 25 Jan 2019

Human Studies

2019 Apr 24

Scand J Pain



Prescribed opioid analgesic use developments in three Nordic countries, 2006-2017.


Muller A E, Clausen T, Sjøgren P, Odsbu I, Skurtveit S
Scand J Pain. 2019 Apr 24; 19(2):345-353.
PMID: 30677000.


Background and aims While the Nordic countries have considerably stricter controls on opioid prescribing for chronic non-cancer pain than other countries, previous research has warned that prescription of strong opioids is increasing. This study examines consumption of and developments in dispensed prescribed opioids to individuals receiving ambulatory care from 2006 to 2017, using publicly available data from each of three Nordic countries' national prescription registries. Methods Repeated, cross-sectional design. One-year prevalence of all dispensed prescribed opioids in ATC N02A group were reported for Norway, Denmark, and Sweden in the period 2006-2017 by gender. One-year prevalence of the weak opioids tramadol and codeine and the strong opioid oxycodone were then reported separately over this period for each country. The mean defined daily dose (DDD) per user per year, an estimate of the amount of opioids prescribed, was reported for each of the three opioids in 2016. Results Patterns of dispensed prescribed opioids differ greatly between 2006 and 2017 and between countries, with tramadol increasing in Norway, codeine declining across the board, and oxycodone increasing in all three countries. Norway exceeded Sweden and Denmark in prevalence of all dispensed prescribed opioids, with 12.1% of the female Norwegian population and 9.2% of the male Norwegian population dispensed at least one prescribed opioid as an outpatient in 2016. Norway's high overall prevalence rates are tempered by dispensing the lowest mean doses of both weak opioids compared to Sweden. Similarly, Sweden dispenses the lowest mean doses of oxycodone but to the largest proportion of its population (3.0%). Conclusions Significant shifts have occurred in the dispensing of prescribed opioids in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark over the past 12 years. The increasing prevalence of oxycodone in all three countries should continue to be monitored. Prescription registries provide a wealth of publicly available data that can be used to monitor and to guide prescribing policies in a more knowledge-based direction.