Background: The COVID-19 lockdown has resulted in limited access to most of the conventional chronic pain management services. Subsequently, changes in opioids’ utilization could be expected. This study assessed the impact of the first COVID-19 lockdown on opioid utilization using aggregated-level, community dispensing dataset covering the whole English population. Research design and methods: A segmented-linear regression analysis was applied to monthly dispensed opioid prescriptions from March 2019 to March 2021. Opioid utilization 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 utilization 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.
- utilization trends