Ten-year trend of opioid and nonopioid analgesic use in the French adult population

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2021 Feb;87(2):555-564. doi: 10.1111/bcp.14415. Epub 2020 Jul 6.


Aims: Analgesics are the most widely used medicines worldwide. In parallel, opioid abuse has increased and is of major concern. The accessibility of pharmacologically powerful medicines and the addictovigilance signals in France about the risk of opiates addiction call for an overview of analgesic use. The objective of this study was to investigate the use of analgesics reimbursed in France over a 10-year period through its prevalence.

Methods: A cross-sectional study repeated yearly was conducted by using data from the French reimbursement database from 2006 to 2015. Analgesics were classified according to their pharmacological potency: prevalence of use for each category and sociodemographic characteristics of patients treated were analysed.

Results: The annual prevalence of analgesic use was high and increased during the study period (59.8%, 253 976 users in 2015). In 2015, prevalence was always higher in women and increased with age, except for those older than 84 years. Peripheral analgesics were the most used (55.3%, 234 739 users). The prevalence of weak analgesic use decreased (21.3%, 90 257 users), mainly due to the definitive withdrawal of dextropropoxyphene in France in 2011, which was not offset by an increase in the consumption of other weak analgesics. For strong analgesics (1.2%, 5129 users), morphine was the most widely used, with a dramatic increase in oxycodone use, especially in the elderly.

Conclusion: The prevalence of analgesic use is high: approximately 31 million adults had at least 1 analgesic reimbursed in 2015. The most widely used analgesics were peripheral analgesics, far ahead of opioid analgesics.

Keywords: France; addictovigilance; analgesics; drug utilization; nonopioids; opioids; prevalence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Opioid-Related Disorders* / drug therapy


  • Analgesics, Non-Narcotic
  • Analgesics, Opioid