Antidepressant Prescribing in England: Patterns and Costs

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Objective: The number of prescriptions for antidepressants (ADs) in England and Wales has almost doubled in the past decade. The objective of this article is to describe the current prescribing rates of different antidepressants by general practice (GP) practice.

Methods: We collated the prescribing behavior in each GP practice in the year April 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018. The monthly GP practice prescribing data reports for medication prescribing for each British National Formulary code and practice, as well as the prescriptions, quantity, and costs were examined in relation to prescribing practice.

Results: The data showed that 2.1 billion doses of antidepressant were prescribed to a total population of 52 million people. That equates to 11% of individuals taking ≥ 1 antidepressants on any day. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were the most prescribed class of ADs, with sertraline the most prescribed SSRI. The other most prescribed ADs were citalopram, fluoxetine, and mirtazapine. Some older agents, such as trimipramine and doxepin, are prescribed at a very high tariff.

Conclusions: Broadly, the findings are in keeping with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance in that the bulk of prescriptions were for SSRIs. Regular audit of patient treatment at a general practice level will ensure appropriate targeted use of licensed medications as supported by the evidence base.

Prim Care Companion CNS Disord 2020;22(2):19m02552