Use of strong opioids among community-dwelling persons with and without Alzheimer's disease in Finland

J. Simon Bell, Marja-Liisa Laitinen, Piia Lavikainen, Eija Lönnroos, Hanna Uosukainen, Sirpa Hartikainen

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The objective of this study was to investigate the national pattern of strong opioid use among community-dwelling persons with and without Alzheimer's disease (AD) in Finland. All persons (n = 28,093) with a diagnosis of AD in 2005 were identified by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (SII). For each person with AD, the SII identified a comparison person individually matched in terms of age (±1 year), sex, and region of residence. Records of all reimbursed drug purchases in 2005 were extracted from the Finnish National Prescription Register. Conditional logistic regression was used to calculate unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (ORs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for reimbursed opioid use. The age of the persons with and without AD ranged from 42 to 101 (mean 80.0) years, with men comprising 32.2% (n = 9048) of persons. The annual prevalence of reimbursed opioid use was 3.0% (n = 273) and 3.8% (n = 727) among men and women with AD, respectively. The use of all reimbursed opioids was lower among persons with AD compared with those without AD (adjusted OR 0.77, 95% CI 0.71 to 0.84). The use of strong opioids (adjusted OR 1.26, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.51) and fentanyl (adjusted OR 1.44, 95% CI 1.13 to 1.83) was higher among persons with AD. Our study did not assess the stage or severity of AD, nor the opioid doses prescribed. However, the results highlight the challenges associated with diagnosing and treating pain in this population, and the importance of balancing the risk of adverse drug reactions against the ease of transdermal administration. Use of opioid analgesics was lower among 28,089 persons with Alzheimer's disease (AD) compared with individually matched comparison persons without AD. However, use of strong opioids and transdermal fentanyl was more prevalent among persons with AD. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-547
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Analgesics
  • Drug utilization
  • Finland
  • Pain

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