Send to

Choose Destination
Eur J Pain. 2019 Jan;23(1):124-134. doi: 10.1002/ejp.1291. Epub 2018 Aug 20.

Prescription opioid analgesic use in France: Trends and impact on morbidity-mortality.

Author information

Université Clermont Auvergne, CHU Clermont-Ferrand, Inserm, Neuro-Dol, Service de Pharmacologie médicale, Centres Addictovigilance et Pharmacovigilance, Centre Evaluation et Traitement de la Douleur, Délégation à la Recherche Clinique et à l'Innovation, F-63001, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Observatoire Français des Médicaments Antalgiques (OFMA)/French Monitoring Centre for Analgesic Drugs, CHU Clermont-Ferrand, Université Clermont Auvergne, F-63001, Clermont-Ferrand, France.
Institut Analgesia, Faculté de Médecine, BP38, F-63001, Clermont-Ferrand, France.



While data from USA and Canada demonstrate an opioid overdose epidemic, very little nation-wide European studies have been published on this topical subject.


Using a nationally representative sample of the French Claims database (>700,000 patients), the exhaustive nationwide hospital discharge database, and national mortality registry, all patients dispensed at least one prescription opioid (PO) in 2004-2017 were identified, to describe trends in PO analgesic use, shopping behaviour, opioid-related hospitalizations and deaths. Annual prevalence of PO use and shopping behaviour (≥1 day of overlapping prescriptions from ≥2 prescribers, dispensed by ≥3 pharmacies) was estimated.


In 2004-2017, the annual prevalence of weak opioid use codeine, tramadol and opium rose by 150%, 123%, and 244%, respectively (p < 0.05). Strong opioid use increased from 0.54% to 1.1% (+104%, p < 0.05), significantly for oxycodone (+1950%). Strong opioid use in chronic noncancer pain rose by 88% (p < 0.05) and 1180% for oxycodone. Opioid shopping increased from 0.50% to 0.67% (+34%, p < 0.05), associated with higher mortality risk HR = 2.8 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.2-6.4]. Opioid-related hospitalizations increased from 15 to 40 per 1,000,000 population (+167%, 2000-2017), and opioid-related deaths from 1.3 to 3.2 per 1,000,000 population (+146%, 2000-2015).


This study provided a first European approach to a nationwide estimation with complete access to several national registries. In 2004-2017 in France, PO use excluding dextropropoxyphene more than doubled. The increase in oxycodone and fentanyl use, and nontrivial increasing trend in opioid-related morbidity-mortality should prompt authorities to closely monitor PO consumption in order to prevent alarming increases in opioid-related morbidity-mortality.


In 2004-2017, prescription opioid use in France at least doubled and oxycodone use increased particularly, associated with a nontrivial increase in opioid-related morbidity-mortality. Although giving no indication for an 'opioid epidemic,' these findings call for proper monitoring of opioid use.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center