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England’s antidepressant prescriptions double to 70m in a decade

Published on 29/03/19 at 11:14am

Figures released by NHS Digital have revealed that prescriptions for antidepressants in the UK have risen to 70.9 million, almost doubling within a decade from the 36 million prescribed in 2008.

These figures cover all such drugs dispensed in England by the NHS, but do not include those dispensed in hospitals or through private prescriptions.

Prescription rates of antidepressants, which are used to treat conditions including depression and anxiety, have been steadily increasingly over the past few years, with 64.7 million prescriptions in 2016 and 67.5 million in 2017.

In Scotland, prescriptions rose by 73.7%, from 3.8 million in 2007-2008 to 6.6 million in 2017-2018, while in Wales this number rose by 168% to 5.6 million over the same period. In Northern Ireland, prescriptions rose from 2.4 million in 2013-2014 to 3.1 million in 2017-2018.

“While antidepressants play an important role for some patients, an attitude of ‘a pill for every ill’ can mean not only do some people end up taking medicine they don’t need to, but taxpayer funding is spent on avoidable prescriptions,” commented an NHS England spokesperson. “This is why the NHS is rolling out alternatives to medication, like 1,000 social prescribing link workers giving people care and advice tailored to their condition and, for mental health issues, the world’s most ambitious programme of talking therapies which can resolve common conditions like depression and anxiety.”

Matt Fellows

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