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Rates of anomalous bupropion prescriptions in Ontario, Canada


Purpose — Reports of bupropion misuse have increased since it was first reported in 2002. The purpose of this study was to explore trends in bupropion prescribing suggestive of misuse or diversion in Ontario, Canada.

Methods — A serial cross-sectional study was conducted of Ontarians aged younger than 65 years who received prescriptions under Ontario's public drug program from April 1, 2000, to March 31, 2013. We determined the number of potentially inappropriate prescriptions in each quarter, defined as early refills dispensed within 50% of the duration of the preceding prescription, as well as potentially duplicitous prescriptions, defined as similarly early refills originating from a different prescriber and different pharmacy. We replicated these analyses for citalopram and sertraline, antidepressants not known to be prone to abuse.

Results — We identified 1,780,802 prescriptions for bupropion, 3,402,462 for citalopram, and 1,775,285 for sertraline. Rates of early refills for bupropion declined during the study from 4.8% to 3.1%. In the final quarter, rates of early refills for bupropion were more common than for citalopram (3.1% vs 2.2%) (P <.001) but not for sertraline (3.1% vs 2.9%) (P =.16). Potentially duplicitous prescriptions for bupropion increased dramatically, from <0.05% of all prescriptions in early 2000 to 0.47% in early 2013 and by the final quarter were more common than both citalopram (0.11%) and sertraline (0.12%) (P <.001).

Conclusions — Although no marked differences were seen for early refills of bupropion relative to its comparators, potentially duplicitous prescriptions have increased dramatically in Ontario, suggesting growing misuse of the drug.



Steele LS, Macdonald EM, Gomes T, Hollands S, Paterson JM, Mamdani MM, Juurlink DN; Canadian Drug Safety and Effectiveness Research Network. Ann Fam Med. 2015; 13(4):343-6.

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