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Antidepressant prescriptions double to 61 million in 10 years

The number of antidepressants given to patients has doubled over the last decade, new figures show.

Between 2005 and 2015 the number of the drugs prescribed and dispensed in England rose from 29.4 million to 61 million.

Meanwhile the latest figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) also show that the number of drugs dished out for diabetes has almost doubled at a cost of almost £1 billion a year.

In 2015, there were 49 million oral anti-diabetic drugs, insulins and monitoring devices handed out to patients with diabetes with a "net ingredients cost" (NIC) of £936.7 million for the NHS - before taking into account any money reclaimed.

This is a steep rise from 2005 when 26.5 million diabetes drugs were prescribed at a cost of £495.3 million.

The NIC of drugs to treat depression was £284.7 million in 2015, the HSCIC figures show.

The HSCIC data also show that in 2015 the total number of drugs prescribed and dispensed in community settings across England totalled more than one billion.

Almost nine in 10 drugs were dispensed to those eligible for free prescriptions including the elderly and children.

An NHS England spokeswoman said: "The latest figures for prescribing and dispensing prescriptions show a rising demand and associated costs to treat a range of conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular, mental health and gastrointestinal issues.

"These data provide a snapshot of the host of medications used to treat the nation's health.

"Whilst there has been a fall in antibiotic prescribing, which is to be welcomed, there has been a rise in the use of antidepressants which reinforces the vital work of prescribers, including dentists, nurses and pharmacists, working closely with patients every day to ensure the best outcomes for individuals and to protect precious NHS resources."

Commenting on the figures, Gillian Connor, head of policy at the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: " The reasons for this increase in antidepressant prescriptions could include a greater awareness of mental illness and more willingness to seek help.

"However, with our overstretched and underfunded mental health services, too often antidepressants are the only treatment available.

"One in 10 of us will experience depression at some point in our lives. What we want to see is people experiencing depression offered the full range of treatments available, including talking therapies.

"People have to be able to access the treatment that is right for them, whether it's antidepressants, therapy or a combination of the two."

Vicki Nash, head of policy and campaigns at mental health charity Mind, said: "The number of prescriptions issued for antidepressants in the UK has been on a persistent upward trend for many years. These latest figures show no sign of this trend slowing and we need to understand why we are seeing persistent year-on-year increases.

"It may be that more people are coming forward and seeking help, or that doctors are getting better at spotting the symptoms of mental health problems, but these are unlikely to be the only reasons. It's vital we 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 (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance.

"Talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy and counselling are becoming more widely available as part of the Government's Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme, but talking therapies still aren't available to everyone who needs them. It is also likely that some areas of the country with particularly high prescription rates simply don't have other forms of treatments as readily available.

"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. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another."

Robin Hewings, head of policy at the charity Diabetes UK, said: "Today's report reflects the rising tide of diabetes and its associated toll on the NHS' finances.

"However, it is important to remember that diabetes medication, such as insulin, is lifesaving, and people with diabetes need their medication to manage their condition well and so reduce their risk of serious complications such as blindness, amputations and stroke.

"As well as being personally devastating, these complications are also extremely costly to the NHS. The NHS spends £10 billion every year managing diabetes, and the vast majority of this cost is spent managing potentially avoidable complications.

"This is why preventing cases of Type 2 diabetes, combined with providing people diagnosed with diabetes with prescribed medication and the support and care they need to manage their condition effectively will help to reduce costs to the NHS in the long term."


From Belfast Telegraph