Wales tops the UK in prescribing antidepressants

Wales tops the UK in prescribing antidepressants

By Catherine Walker

New figures on the prescription of antidepressants in 2010 show that doctors in Wales wrote out more prescriptions for antidepressants than those in England and Scotland.

These figures come in the wake of news that GPs are prescribing this type of medication to patients who they know, or suspect, are addicted to these drugs.   Mental Healthy reported on this trend last week.  Read about this GPs know they are prescribing drugs to addicted patients.

Mental health campaigners have warned of the dangers of GP over-prescribing and experts have concerns that the current economic climate may be a cause for people spiraling into depression.

The figures show that:

  • 3.5 million prescriptions were issues in Wales in 2010 (population 3 million)
  • 4.3 million prescriptions were issued in Scotland during the same period (population 5.2 million)
  • 39.1 million prescriptions were issued in England in 2009 (the most recent date that figures are available).  The population for England in that period was 52.5 million.

The highest increase in prescription over the last eight years is also in Wales.  Over this period the number of prescription issued has risen by 70% in Wales, 61% in England and 43% in Scotland.

In an interview with Wales on Sunday Charlotte Jones, deputy chair of the General Practitioners Committee of Wales and a GP in Swansea said ‘I suspect it’s down to an ongoing lack of alternatives like psychological therapies and also possibly a reflection of a difficult time people are facing economically.  All this is combined to more mental health problems and sometimes the only recourse is to antidepressants.’

Is it time for Wales to think about improving the therapy services available throughout the nation?  In England the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) scheme has been running since 2008.  It has seen 3,660 new cognitive behavioural therapy workers being trained and more than 600,000 people start treatment.  More than 350,000 people have completed treatment and more than 23,000 of these have come off sick pay or benefits between 2009 and March 2011.

People on antidepressants should take them for at least six months after they start to feel better with people likely to be on them for about eight to nine months.  It is recommended that  people who have had two or more attacks of depression continue treatment for at least two years.(Royal College of Psychiatrists recommendation).   


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