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Gomes T, Kim KC, Suda KJ, Garg R, Tadrous M. International trends in prescription opioid sales among developed and developing economies, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic: A cross-sectional analysis of 66 countries. Pharmacoepidemiology and drug safety. 2022 Jul 1; 31(7):779-787.
PURPOSE: We sought to compare trends in opioid purchasing between developed and developing economies to understand patterns of opioid consumption, and how they were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cross-sectional study of retail pharmacy opioid sales from 66 jurisdictions between July 2014 and August 2020. We measured monthly population-adjusted rate of opioid units purchased, stratified by development group and country, and used interventional time series analysis to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rates of opioid purchasing among developed and developing economies separately. RESULTS: Rates of opioid purchasing were generally higher among developed economies, although trends differed considerably by development group. Rates of opioid purchasing declined 23.8% (95% confidence interval [CI] -34.7% to 3.6%) in the 5?years prior to the pandemic in developed economies, but rose 15.2% (95% CI 4.6%-35.6%) among developing economies. In March 2020 there was a short-term increase in the rate of opioid purchases in both developing (10.9 units/1000 population increase; p < 0.0001) and developed (145.5 units/1000 population; p < 0.0001) economies, which was followed immediately by reduced opioid purchasing of a similar scale in April-May 2020 (-14.8 and?-171.8 units/1000 population in developing and developed economies, respectively; p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: The COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in opioid purchasing around the world; although the specific impacts varied both between and among developed and developing economies. With global variation in opioid use, there is a need to monitor these trajectories to ensure the safety of opioid use, and adequate access to pain management globally.