‌June 12th, 2020

Drug use in France during the Covid-19 pandemic

Report 3: Update after the end of the confinement

EPI-PHARE publishes the results of a major pharmaco-epidemiological study on the dispensation of reimbursed prescription drugs in pharmacies during the 8 weeks of confinement in France and in the first week post-confinement.

Based on the data from the French National Health Data System (SNDS), this study aims to characterize the consumption behavior of the population towards drugs prescribed in town, whether or not linked to Covid -19, in the particular context of the Covid-19 epidemic and confinement. Based on the analysis of 725 million prescriptions, it compares, for 58 therapeutic classes, the number of people who have had a dispensation of reimbursed prescription drugs in pharmacies every week since March 2020 with the “expected” number estimated on the basis of the same period in 2018 and 2019.


The results after eight weeks of confinement and one week post-confinement indicated that during this period, the consumption of reimbursed prescription drugs in France was profoundly modified.


For the first time, they highlight a sharp drop in the initiation of treatments for new patients during confinement (-39% for antihypertensive drugs, -48.5% for antidiabetics and -49% for statins). These results corroborate the drop in office-based medicine activity despite the development of teleconsultation. These reductions corresponded to more than 100,000 hypertensive patients, 37,500 diabetics and 70,000 people under treatment with statins and untreated.


In addition, it appears that the very large decrease in the dispensation of products requiring administration by a health professional already reported in our previous reports, continued until the end of confinement and beyond. This decrease relates in particular to vaccines (-6% for penta/hexavalent vaccines for infants, -43% for HPV vaccines, -16% for MMR and -48% for tetanus vaccines the last week of confinement, this decrease still observed during the week of  post-confinement) and products intended for medical diagnostic procedures such as colonoscopies (-62%), scanners (-38%) and MRI (-44%). Non-performed examinations such as  colonoscopy (-180,000), MRI (-200,000), scanner (-375,000), which are essential for diagnosing certain cancers or serious illnesses, could lead to delayed treatments.


In addition, the collapse in the use of antibiotics (-30 to -40%), in particular in children (-765,000 antibiotic treatments during the confinement in the 0-19 age group compared to the expected), lasted throughout the confinement and during the following week. It can be explained by the stopping of the circulation of all viruses (except SARS-Cov-2) and other infectious agents with the closing of nurseries and educational establishments during confinement and their partial reopening the first week after delivery.


On the other hand, some therapeutic classes saw their use increase at the end of confinement and during the first week of post-confinement, in particular hypnotics (+ 6.9% the first week of post-confinement) and to a lesser degree anxiolytics (+ 1.2% the first week after delivery). As several surveys point out, confinement and its social, professional and economic consequences may have resulted in sleep disturbances and anxiety. Antidepressants were not affected by this increase at the immediate end of the confinement period.


The follow-up carried out by EPI-PHARE will be continued until a return to a normalized situation. The data will be regularly updated and published on the websites of ANSM, Cnam EPI-PHARE.

The study report

Find the report of the study on the Drug use in France during the Covid-19 pandemic – Update after 8 weeks of confinement and 1 week after the end of confinement.