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Antidepressant prescribing has more than doubled in ten years

Antidepressant prescribing has more than doubled in a decade and is now costing the NHS £780,000 per day, official data has shown.

An analysis by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) showed there were 61m antidepressant drugs prescribed in 2015, 31.6m more than in 2005 - representing an increase of 108%.

Comparing 2015 to 2014, there was a 3.9m increase (6.8%) in antidepressant prescriptions, leading to a rise in total cost to £284.7m (7.4%).

However despite the rise in the number of items prescribed the cost to the NHS of antidepressant precriptions had actually fallen in the last ten-year period, by £53.8m.

The report said this was because the prices of branded generic drugs (category M) fluctuated during the period.

RCGP’s clinical lead for mental health Dr Liz England said there could be 'a number of reasons for increased antidepressant prescribing' including 'positive steps forward' such as 'greater awareness of mental health problems in society, and that patients are less inhibited to seek medical help for them'.

She said: 'GPs are highly trained to deal with patients of all ages with mental health conditions, and prescribe accordingly and appropriately.

'Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and patients can be assured that their family doctor will prescribe medication only when necessary, taking into account other medications being taken and when other alternatives, such as talking or mindfulness therapies, have been explored.'

Readers' comments (4)

  • The Tories been in government for 7 of these years a coincidence ,I think not.

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  • Increases in SSRI prescribing are are a poor proxy for alleged increases in depressive illness. They portray the phenomenal success of the commercial marketing of treating unhappiness and everything else that benzodiazepines were prescribed for by previous generations of primary care physicians.

    "Drug companies have pursued a mission of increasing the number of people taking their drugs rather than producing more effective drugs". Richard Smith. Psychiatry in crisis? 4. jul,16.

    "There is hardly any true increase in the prevalence of depression. The apparent increase is caused by lowering the criteria for what is considered depression"
    Professor Peter C. Goetzsche. Nordic Cochrane Centre.

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  • I also blame the Tories

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  • Do we have any information about the availability of mental health services in the same period of time? When a patient can only access appropriate therapies like CBT, family therapies etc after a long delay (if at all available in their area), he/she might end up taking an antidepressant in the meantime, even if the GP did not consider medication as the first-line therapy.

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