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Monitoring of medicines use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Update as of 28 February 2021 with a regional breakdown

During the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, retail purchases of low molecular weight heparins (first-line treatment for COVID-19) increased by over 19% compared to 2019 across all Italian Regions, although the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA) has never officially approved them for treating COVID-19. Anxiolytics also recorded a 12% increase since early 2020, especially in the central Regions, such as Marche (+68%) and Umbria (+73%). These are some of the data collected (as of the end of February 2021) as part of the monitoring of medicines use during the COVID-19 pandemic, and published by AIFA in March 2021 along with a regional breakdown.


AIFA also stressed that ┬źdespite hospitals being under intense pressure, their purchases of cancer medications and immunosuppressants in 2020 remained stable compared to the previous year across all Regions, including those most affected by the current emergency┬╗. As for non-specific medications, data showed an overall rise in the use of cardiac stimulants administered by injection in intensive and sub-intensive care settings (+127% compared to the previous year). During the first two months of 2021, a particularly significant increase (compared to 2020) was observed in Molise, Basilicata, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.


Retail and hospital purchases of azithromycin continued to rise sharply, particularly in Campania (+250%) and Lazio (+300%), although the evidence available suggests that this medication should be used only for treating COVID-19 patients with bacterial co-infections.


The timeliness and accuracy of the information provided by AIFA help ensure appropriate and consistent use of medicines across the country.


The data can be searched and viewed directly on the AIFA website.


Publication date: 18 March 2021

Authors: Roberto Da Cas - Centro nazionale per la ricerca e la valutazione preclinica e clinica dei farmaci, ISS