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Scripts soar but cases stay static

Antidepressant prescribing has soared over a period when the incidence of depression has not increased, a new study concludes.

The research, published in June's British Journal of General Practice, challenges the assumption that an increase in the number of patients seeking help has forced up the antidepressant prescribing rate.

Researchers found the number of antidepressant prescriptions in Scotland increased from 1.5 million in 1995/6 to 2.8 million in 2000/1.

But the percentage of patients diagnosed with depression fell over a similar period, from 1.7 per cent in 1998/9 to 1.3 per cent in 2000/1.

Study leader Professor Jill Morrison, professor of general practice at the University of Glasgow, said campaigns to promote antidepressant use might have had an effect. 'It is possible the threshold for prescribing antidepressants has lowered because newer antidepressants have been promoted as having fewer side-effects,' she said.

GPs warned they faced increasing expectation from patients and with poor access to talking therapies they had little choice but to prescribe.

Dr Lizzie Miller, a GPSI in mental health in Kensington, west London, said: 'The patient's expectation is for the doctor to do something and there aren't enough alternative therapies around which are instantly available.'

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