Use of tramadol and other analgesics following media attention and risk minimization actions from regulators: a Danish nationwide drug utilization study

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2021 Apr;77(4):617-624. doi: 10.1007/s00228-020-03016-6. Epub 2020 Oct 28.


Purpose: To describe the use of tramadol and other analgesics in Denmark focusing on the impact of media attention (June and December 2017) and regulatory actions (September 2017 and January 2018) on the use of tramadol.

Methods: Using nationwide registries, we identified all adults who filled a prescription for tramadol and other analgesics from 2014 to 2019. We described incidence rates, prevalence proportions, and total use of tramadol and other analgesics over time. We also described switching between analgesics, treatment duration, skewness in drug use, and doctor-shopping.

Results: From early 2017 until the end of 2019, total tramadol use decreased markedly while the use of morphine and oxycodone decreased slightly. The quarterly prevalence of tramadol use decreased from 32/1000 individuals in 2014 to 18/1000 at the end of 2019, dropping mainly at the time of media attention. Concomitantly, the quarterly prevalence increased for oxycodone (from 5.1 to 8.2) and morphine (from 8.5 to 9.8), mainly due to more short-term and sporadic users, and decreased for codeine (14 to 9.6). From 2014 to mid-2017, the incidence of tramadol use was stable (around 2.2/1000 person-months) but dropped in June 2017 to 1.7/1000, coinciding with the media attention. The incidence of tramadol use continued to decrease (to 1.1/1000 at the end of 2019).

Conclusion: We identified a decline in tramadol use coinciding with the media attention in 2017 and continuing during regulatory actions. There was generally no evidence of unintended effects on the utilization of opioids related to the media attention and regulatory actions.

Keywords: Drug utilization; Opioid use; Regulatory action; Tramadol.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Communications Media / statistics & numerical data*
  • Denmark
  • Drug Substitution / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug and Narcotic Control*
  • Female
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / prevention & control
  • Registries
  • Risk
  • Tramadol / therapeutic use*


  • Analgesics
  • Tramadol