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Community prescriptions for antidepressants double in a decade, report shows

NHS Digital figures show that antidepressant items dispensed in the community rose from 31 million in 2006 to 64.7 million in 2016.
Antidepressants

The number of antidepressants prescriptions dispensed in the community has more than doubled over the last decade, according to new figures.

Picture: Alamy

Last year was the fourth in succession in which the greatest numeric increase of all prescriptions dispensed in the community was for antidepressants, according to NHS Digital figures.

The number of antidepressant items dispensed rose from 31 million in 2006 to 64.7 million in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016 there was an increase of 6%, from 61 million to 64.7 million.

The NHS Digital report, Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community 2006-2016 , tracks trends in therapeutic areas over the past decade based on British National Formulary classifications.

Swansea University associate professor and team lead for mental health nursing Julia

The number of antidepressants prescriptions dispensed in the community has more than doubled over the last decade, according to new figures.

Antidepressants
Picture: Alamy

Last year was the fourth in succession in which the greatest numeric increase of all prescriptions dispensed in the community was for antidepressants, according to NHS Digital figures.

The number of antidepressant items dispensed rose from 31 million in 2006 to 64.7 million in 2016. Between 2015 and 2016 there was an increase of 6%, from 61 million to 64.7 million.

The NHS Digital report, Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community 2006-2016, tracks trends in therapeutic areas over the past decade based on British National Formulary classifications.

Swansea University associate professor and team lead for mental health nursing Julia Terry said: ‘This increase in antidepressants is interesting and warrants further discussion.

‘It may be that people are requesting repeat prescriptions and not always returning to primary care for medication review.

‘I would stress the value that antidepressants can have. They may be a life saver, literally, for some people experiencing mental distress.

‘However, people need to feel confident that a number of accessible and effective treatments are available to treat depression, as well as medication.

Raising awareness

Ms Terry said: ‘As someone who teaches and trains health professionals, I would like to see a focus on raising awareness about how to access services and what’s available locally in primary care.

‘The stigma of mental distress is changing, but we have some way to go yet before the public have increased knowledge about mental health issues and more accessible services.’

Royal College of GPs chair Helen Stokes-Lampard said: ‘While at face value the rise might seem alarming, it could indicate better identification and diagnosis of mental health conditions across healthcare – and a reduction in stigma associated with mental health in society leading to more people with mental health conditions seeking medical assistance.

‘Both would be positive steps forward as we strive for parity of esteem between physical and mental health.’

She said there is a severe lack of alternative treatments, such as talking therapies, available in the community.

Professor Stokes-Lampard also called on NHS England’s GP Forward View to pledge that every practice would have access to one of 3,000 new mental health therapists. 


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