New figures released today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre show that prescriptions for antidepressants have topped 50 million a year for the first time (1).
Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer said:
"Antidepressant prescription figures continue on an upward trend. If this means more people feel able to come forward and seek help then this is a positive sign. However, it is unlikely to be the only reason and it’s time we examined closely why we are continually seeing such dramatic, persistent year-on-year increases. Antidepressants prescriptions have been rising at a considerable pace for many years now and show no signs of stopping.
We need to better understand exactly how many people are taking antidepressants, for how long and whether they are receiving other treatment alongside medication, as recommended in NICE guidance. We know that many people struggle to access alternatives to medication such as talking therapies.
Recent figures show that, despite the government’s investment in the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, in some parts of the country people still wait months for an appointment to access talking treatments such as counselling. This is not acceptable as the true scale of unmet need is becoming clearer.
We must remember that while antidepressants can be very effective for some, they are not the solution for everyone and they should never be used as a first-line treatment for mild depression.
The World Health Organisation predicts that by 2020, depression will be the second leading cause of disability throughout the world. As we near this next landmark it’s important that GPs are prepared and have a full range of treatment options available for patients experiencing depression."
(1) The total number of prescriptions dispensed in 2012 was 50,167,201 for all types of antidepressants up 7.5 per cent on 2011 (when totals were 46,677,813). The cost of antidepressant prescription was £211,145,435 in 2012. Health and Social Care Information Centre, Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community, Statistics for England (2002-2012) www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB11291