‌December 16th, 2020

Drug use in France during the Covid-19 pandemic

Report 5: Update until November 22, 2020

EPI-PHARE publishes the fifth report of its study on the dispensation of reimbursed prescription drugs in pharmacies since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in France.


This fifth report covers the periods of the first national lockdown (from March 16, 2020 to May 10, 2020), from post-lockdown until October 29, 2020 and the start of the second lockdown from October 30 to November 22, i.e. a more than eight months follow-up.


In total, during the eight months following the begininng of the Covid-19 pandemic in France (first wave, epidemic rebound from the second wave and two long lockdowns) there was no notable lack of drugs in France for chronic pathologies already treated, probably because patients were given the possibility of using “expired” prescriptions both during the first and the second lockdonw, and also thanks to the use of telemedicine. This is particularly the case for antihypertensive drugs, antidiabetics including insulin and antiepileptics … There is, however, no evidence that the necessary therapeutic adjustments have been made. For new patients, a deficit in the initiation of treatments, usually low, was observed for some therapeutic classes.


Other more massive reductions in use were noted for antibiotics (-5.5 million treatments delivered compared to the expected), NSAIDs (-8.9 million), oral corticosteroids (-4.9 million) and PPI-type antiulcer drugs (-0.8 million). They partly reflect the good understanding of the messages from the health authorities on the possible deleterious effects of certain drugs on Covid-19.


The second wave of Covid-19 and the curfew and subsequent lockdown that followed had a less marked impact on the prescribing and dispensation of drugs than the first wave and its stricter lockdown. The therapeutic classes of drugs for mental disorders, anxiolytics (increase of +1.7 million treatments delivered in eight months compared to expected), hypnotics (+680,000 treatments delivered) and anti-depressants (+400 000 deliveries in eight months compared to expected), have seen their consumption and initiation moderately increased. This increase probably reflects the significant psychological impact of the Covid-19 epidemic and its social, professional and economic consequences.


The delays observed in terms of treatments requiring administration by a healthcare professional, such as treatment by intraocular injection of AMD (-85,000 doses) or even functional explorations, particularly by endoscopic route or by medical imaging, cannot be overcome in 2020, requiring medium and long-term programming, or even an adaptation of certain indications to the necessarily reduced offer of care (-260,000 preparations for colonoscopy, -370,000 iodine products for CT, -210,000 contrast agents for MRI) .


Vaccination also showed a strong deficit by November 22, eight months after the beginning of the pandemic: penta/hexavalent vaccines for infants (-70,000 doses), anti-HPV vaccines (-230,000 doses), MMR vaccine [Measles-Mumps -Rubella] (-150,000 doses), tetanus vaccine (-720,000 doses). The delay observed in terms of vaccination will not be remedied in 2020 and will carry over to the year 2021.


This epidemiological surveillance based on the French health insurance reimbursement data is important and will be continued.
The study report

Find the study report on the drug use in France during the Covid-19 pandemic – Update until November 22, 2020