Evaluating Analgesic Use During COVID-19

Mean days of therapy per 1000 patient-days were reduced across medication categories.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, costs associated with the use of opioid analgesics were significantly reduced, according to a poster presented at the 2021 ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition, held virtually December 5 through 9.1

In the current single-center, retrospective study, researchers sought to evaluate the use of both opioid and nonopioid analgesics during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic were compared, measured using days of therapy per 1000 patient-days and drug cost per 1000 patient-days.

Nonopioid drug classes included anxiolytics, induction agents, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, regional/local anesthetics, sedatives, sedative/hypnotics, skeletal muscle relaxants, and other analgesics.

Following the start of the pandemic, the study center experienced a “significant reduction” in mean opioid and nonopioid days of therapy per 1000 patient days (1024.1±79.6 vs 898.8±121.4 and 1415.6±40 vs 1357.3±84.6). A significant reduction in mean drug cost per 1000 patient-days for opioids was also noted ($2.98±$0.57 vs $2.15±$0.31); the same reduction was not seen with nonopioid medications.

“Many variables may have contributed to the significant decrease in opioid use during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the authors noted; these variables include ongoing provider education, efforts to withhold the use of ventilators in patients with COVID-19, and a decrease in elective surgeries.


  1. Lowe H, Nicholson J, Guzman O, Egan B, Wright K. Opioid and non-opioid analgesic utilization during the COVID-19 pandemic. Presented at: ASHP 2021 Midyear Clinical Meeting & Exhibition; December 5-9, 2021.