Background and objective:
Irrational use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is the main cause of adverse effects-associated hospitalizations among all medication groups leading to extremely increased costs for health care. Pharmacoepidemiological studies can partly reveal such issues and encourage further decisions. Therefore, the aim of our study was to evaluate the utilization of non-opioid analgesics (ATC classification N02B and M01A) in Lithuania, and to compare it with that of other Baltic and Scandinavian countries in terms of compliance to the WHO pain treatment guidelines and the EMA safety recommendations on NSAID use. Materials and methods:
The dispensing data were obtained from the sales analysis software provider in the Baltic countries (SoftDent, Ltd., Kaunas, Lithuania); State Medicine Control Agencies of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia; Norwegian Prescription Database; Swedish Database for Medicines; and Danish Prescription Database. Data included the utilization of both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Utilization was expressed in defined daily doses (DDD)/1000 inhabitants/day. Results:
During the 11-year period, the utilization of drugs belonging to the N02B and M01A groups increased by 22.8%, from 58.37 in 2005 to 71.68 DDD/1000 inhabitants/day in 2016 in Lithuania. Contrary to the WHO guidelines on pain management, all Baltic countries were more likely to use NSAIDs than other analgesics and antipyretics: in 2015, the drugs of the M01A group were used 6.04, 5.79, and 6.11 times more than those of N02B in Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, respectively, whereas the Scandinavian countries preferred the N02B to the M01A group: in Denmark and Sweden, the utilization of other analgesics and antipyretics was 2.33 and 1.24, respectively, times higher than that of NSAIDs. In Norway, the use of both groups was similar. In the Scandinavian countries, paracetamol was the analgesic of first choice, whereas, in Lithuania, it took only the third place. The most popular drug in Lithuania was diclofenac, and its utilization accounted for 30.04% of all non-opioid analgesics in 2016. Although the European Medicines Agency (EMA) restricted the use of certain NSAIDs, i.e., cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitors, nimesulide, and diclofenac, their use consistently increased by 15.91, 2.83, and 1.41 times, respectively, showing incompliance with the international guidelines. Conclusions:
Neither the EMA safety policy on NSAID use nor the WHO pain treatment guidelines had a sufficient impact on the rational use of NSAIDs in Lithuania. The use of NSAIDs restricted by the EMA (diclofenac, COX-2 inhibitors, nimesulide, and piroxicam) remains high or even increases, while the utilization of safer alternatives (paracetamol and naproxen) remains relatively low as compared with the Scandinavian countries. Incompliance with international guidelines may result in increased morbidity, mortality and higher costs for health care.