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Antidepressant prescribing in Scotland rises by almost 3 million items per year over a decade

Figures from NHS National Services Scotland Information Services Division show that more than 900,000 people in Scotland were prescribed at least one antidepressant during 2017/2018.

The number of antidepressants prescribed in Scotland has risen by almost 3 million items per year over the past decade, new figures show.

The data on medicines used in mental health show that antidepressant prescribing in Scotland rose to 6.6 million items dispensed in 2017/2018, compared with 3.8 million items in 2007/2008 — an increase of 73.2%.

The figures, published by NHS National Services Scotland Information Services Division on 9 October 2018, also show that more than 900,000 people in Scotland were prescribed at least one antidepressant during 2017/2018.

Since patient level data was first available, in 2009/2010, the number of patients in Scotland prescribed at least one antidepressant rose by 42.3% from 633,791 to 902,168 in 2017/2018.

The most recent estimates from the Office for National Statistics puts the population of Scotland at just under 5.5 million.

The data show that almost two-thirds (65.8%) of Scottish patients who received antidepressant treatment in 2017/2018 were women, while the age group with the highest level of antidepressant prescribing was 50–54 years.

The figures also show a slight increase in prescribing of antipsychotics, drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and drugs for dementia over the past decade in Scotland. Dispensing of hypnotics and anxiolytics fell slightly in the past ten years.

The figures include all prescriptions written in Scotland and dispensed in the community, by either community pharmacies or dispensing doctors. They do not include prescriptions dispensed within hospitals and prisons.

Aileen Bryson, deputy director for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in Scotland, said the increase in antidepressant prescribing was likely to have a number of causes, such as more people living longer; the association of depression with long-term conditions; and NHS waiting times for counselling services.

Bryson added that the RPS supports quicker referral to specialist mental health services, which need more resources.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2018.20205582

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