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Surge in depression sees antidepressant scripts soar

The number of antidepressant prescriptions written each year has doubled since the mid-1990s as GPs face a surge in depressive illnesses, new Government figures show.

According to the Prescription Pricing Authority there were 27.7 million antidepression prescriptions in 2003, up from 13.2 million in 1995.

But GPs are struggling to cope with the increase and are forced to resort to drugs because more appropriate psychological and social services are not available, a survey has shown.

The recent Health of the Nation report by Norwich Union Healthcare found depression was one of the biggest 'growth' conditions facing GPs.

Four in five GPs had prescribed antidepressants when they would have preferred

to recommend psychological therapies or better social care had they been available.

Prescriptions to under-18s have increased particularly quickly – with three times as many as in 1995.

But Dr Chris Manning, former GP and chief executive of the Primary Care Mental Health and Education working group, defended the use of antidepressants, saying they were useful if they were carefully prescribed and patients were closely monitored.

He said because of the furore surrounding the safety of newer SSRIs: 'We never get round to reminding people they are better tolerated than the older antidepressants.'

lA new US Government-funded study has shown that fluoxetine (Prozac) is more

effective than cognitive behaviour therapy in treating depression in adolescents.

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