Usage of paracetamol-containing combination analgesics remains high in primary care

Cara Usher, Mary Teeling, Kathleen Bennett, Bernie McGowan, John Feely
British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology 2005, 60 (6): 648-52

AIMS: Paracetamol-containing combination analgesics are widely prescribed but the use of paracetamol/dextropropoxyphene (co-proxamol) is particularly controversial. We aim to examine the prescribing patterns of the paracetamol-containing analgesics in Ireland.

METHODS: A national primary care prescribing database was used to investigate patterns of usage. Twenty-six thousand three hundred and eighteen patients who were new to therapy with paracetamol and paracetamol-containing analgesics between January and June 2002 were identified as follows: no previous analgesic medication in the 6 months prior to enrolment into the study, and followed up for at least 12 months from the time of enrolment. Duration of therapy and the number of prescriptions received post enrolment were analyzed according to age. Odds ratios for receiving long-term (>1 month) compared with short-term (1 month) prescriptions for co-proxamol, paracetamol only or a paracetamol combination-type analgesic were calculated for women vs. men, and in those aged over 65 vs. those aged under 65 years.

RESULTS: Co-proxamol was the most commonly prescribed analgesic, accounting for 42% of all prescriptions dispensed during 2003. Long-term use of paracetamol-containing analgesic preparations was uncommon, with 56.7% receiving only 1 month's prescription during the study period. However, women (OR = 1.18, 95% CI 1.07, 1.28, P < 0.0001) and those over 65 years (OR = 1.71, 95% CI 1.57, 1.86, P < 0.0001) were more likely to receive a follow-up prescription for co-proxamol, but also for paracetamol (women, OR = 1.28, 95% CI 1.16, 1.39; over 65 year olds, OR = 2.67, 95% CI 2.44, 2.93) and the paracetamol combinations (women, OR = 1.33, 95% CI 1.20, 1.47; over 65 year olds, OR = 1.69, 95% CI 1.53, 1.87).

CONCLUSIONS: Co-proxamol was the most commonly prescribed paracetamol-containing analgesic preparation in Ireland. The results may indicate inappropriate use in primary care.

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