Trends in opioid analgesics sales to community pharmacies and hospitals in Italy (2000-2010)

A. T. Caraceni, C. Brunelli, P. Rocco, P. Minghetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Opioid consumption data in Italy have been widely studied. However, only aggregate data can be found in the published literature, and differences are expected by distribution setting (community pharmacies and hospitals). The aim of our paper is to analyse opioids sales trends in Italy in the decade 2000-2010, in an effort to explore such differences. Methods. Quarterly sales data of opioid medicinal products sold by wholesalers to both community pharmacies (retail) and to hospitals (non-retail) during the time period 2000-2010 were supplied by IMS Italy. Data were standardized using the Defined Daily Doses per day per 1000 inhabitants (DDDd/1000). Results. Opioid sales have steadily increased during the time period considered going from 1.04 DDDd/1000 in 2000 to 4.9 in 2010 (+292%). Nonetheless relevant differences can be found both by distribution setting and drug type. In particular retail sales have increased by 286% for WHO Step II opioids and by 575% for WHO Step III drugs, while non-retail sales have increased by 48% and 263%, respectively. In 2010, fentanyl and buprenorphine transdermal patches and oxycodone are more widely prescribed than morphine, in the retail setting, with fentanyl at large in the first position. In hospitals morphine and fentanyl almost equally share the 75% of the market. Conclusion. Data suggest that morphine is no more the opioid of first choice for severe pain in Italy, at least for outpatients. This is contradicting most international guidelines available in the 2000-2010 decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)906-914
Number of pages9
JournalMinerva Anestesiologica
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013


  • Analgesics, opioid
  • Neoplasms
  • Pain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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