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GPs missing fees for enhanced services

The UK was in the middle of an explosion of SSRI prescribing in children when the Committee on Safety of Medicines warned against use of the drugs, new data reveals.

Prescriptions for SSRIs among patients under 18 leapt ten-fold between 1992 and 2001, according to the research, as the extent of the current void in depression treatments became clear.

The researchers warned doctors had been left acutely short of options, given the lack of access to cognitive behaviour therapy. Many GPs felt compelled to offer fluoxetine, the only drug the CSM has accepted can be used in patients under 18, although it is not licensed in the UK.

Overall antidepressant prescribing in children rose by 70 per cent over the study period, with SSRI prescriptions jumping from 0.5 per 1,000 patients to 4.6. Over the same period, use of tricyclic antidepressants in children fell by 30 per cent.

Dr Ian Wong, lead author of the study and director of the Centre for Paediatric Research at London University, urged GPs and specialists to come up with local guidelines detailing how and when children should come off SSRIs to prevent secondary care clinics being overwhelmed. And he said: 'No doctor wants to take a patient off a drug just because the Government tells them to. You have to do what's best for the patient.'

The analysis of data from the UK general practice research database was published in the Archives of Disease in Children (November).

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