Background: The COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in limited access to most of the conventional chronic pain management services. Subsequently, changes in opioids’ utilisation could be expected. This study assessed the impact of the first COVID-19 lockdown on opioid utilisation using aggregated-level, community dispensing dataset covering the whole English population.

Method: A segmented-linear regression analysis was applied to monthly dispensed opioid prescriptions from March 2019-March 2021. Opioid utilisation was measured using the number of opioids’ items dispensed/1000 inhabitants and Defined Daily Dose (DDD)/1000 inhabitants/day during 12-months pre/post the lockdown in March 2020 stratified by strong and weak opioids.

Results: For all opioids’ classes, there were nonsignificant changes in the number of opioids’ items dispensed/1000 inhabitants trend pre-lockdown, small increases in their level immediately post-lockdown, and a non-significant decline in the trend post-lockdown. Similarly, a non-significant reduction in the DDD/1000 inhabitant/day baseline trend pre-lockdown, nonsignificant immediate increases in the level post-lockdown, and declines in the trend post-lockdown for all opioids’ classes were observed.

Conclusion: Unexpectedly, opioid utilisation does not appear to have been significantly affected by the lockdown measures during the study period. However, patient-level data is needed to determine more accurate estimates of any changes in the opioid prescribing including incident prescribing/use


The accepted author manuscript is restricted to University of Strathclyde Repository staff only until 14 June 2023. To request a copy for personal use, please use the "request a copy" button on their Repository record.

Cite as

Sindi, O., Alshaikh, F., Godman, B. & Kurdi, A. 2022, 'The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown measures on the prescribing trends and utilisation of opioids in the English primary care setting: segmented-liner regression analysis', Expert Review of Clinical Pharmacology. https://doi.org/10.1080/17512433.2022.2093715

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Last updated: 28 June 2022
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