The COVID-19 pandemic has placed sustained pressure on Canada’s healthcare system and resources, including prescription drugs. In line with the ODPRN’s goal of being a leader in generating high-quality, relevant, and timely research of interest to clinicians, policy-makers, academics, and the general public, the ODPRN is conducting several projects examining the impacts of the pandemic on medication use and drug safety. Projects published thus far include:
Patterns of medication and healthcare use among people who died of an opioid-related toxicity during the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario
In Ontario, the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the ongoing opioid overdose crisis. There is an urgent need to better understand patterns of healthcare use among people who died of an opioid-related toxicity during the pandemic, particularly amid the pandemic-related disruptions to healthcare services and increasing rates of unintentional deaths due to opioid-related toxicity since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ODPRN, the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario/Ontario Forensic Pathology Service (OCC/OFPS) and Public Health Ontario (PHO) have developed a new report describing patterns of medication and healthcare use among people who died of an opioid-related toxicity in Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic up to the end of December 2020. In addition, this report will focus on describing these same characteristics and patterns of healthcare use among people who were experiencing homelessness in order to inform supportive approaches that can be tailored specifically for this population.
This report follows a report that describes changing circumstances surrounding opioid-related deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as preliminary patterns during the first three months of the pandemic.
COVID-19 Ontario Prescription Drug Utilization Tool
Media reports of drug stockpiling, together with anecdotal reports of an uptick in commonly used medications and off-label use of medications to treat COVID-19, have placed additional pressures on a drug supply already under strain. The pandemic has also changed how patients use and receive some medications. To confirm or refute these reports and characterize the impact of COVID-19 on drug prescribing, the ODPRN has developed an interactive COVID-19 Ontario Prescription Drug Utilization Tool to provide public access to data on drug utilization in Ontario during the pandemic. This tool will be updated as new data becomes available.
Ontario Prescription Opioid Tool
The Ontario Prescription Opioid Tool allows public access to data related to indicators for opioid prescribing in the province from 2012 onwards using data housed at ICES.
Changing Trends Amid COVID-19
Ontario has reported increasing opioid-related overdoses in 2020, which may be a consequence of physical distancing measures introduced to curb the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2020 update, we explored the effects of COVID-19 on opioid prescribing indicators and the distribution of naloxone in the province.
Other Completed Projects
- Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the provision of take-home doses of opioid agonist therapy in Ontario, Canada: A population-based time-series analysis
- Association between increased dispensing of opioid agonist therapy take-home doses and opioid overdose and treatment interruption and discontinuation
- The effects of COVID-19 on the dispensing rates of antidepressants and benzodiazepines in Canada
- Opioid use, related harms, and access to treatment among First Nations in Ontario
- Measuring the burden of opioid-related mortality in Ontario, Canada, during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Impact of COVID-19 on prescribing trends of direct-acting antivirals for the treatment of hepatitis C in Ontario, Canada
- Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the prevalence of pharmacist-prescribed opioids in Ontario
- Choppy waters: The importance of accounting for shifting drug utilization during the COVID‐19 pandemic in future observational drug‐related studies
- Medication use among adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Alpha-1 receptor blocker use and the risk of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) related harms