Over 70 million prescriptions for antidepressants were issued in England in 2018, according to new figures released by NHS Digital.
The figures show that the number of drugs issued for conditions like depression and anxiety rose from 67.5 million in 2017. The total is almost double the number dispensed in 2008.
‘Prescribing is a core skill for GPs, and we will only prescribe medication to a patient after a full and frank discussion with them, considering their unique circumstances, and if we genuinely believe they will be of benefit to their patient,’ said Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs.
‘Antidepressants are no different, and it's really important that increasing numbers of antidepressant prescriptions are not automatically seen as a bad thing, as research has shown they can be very effective drugs when used appropriately.’
Figures published for Scotland revealed a similar trend, with 6.6 million items dispensed in 2017-2018, compared with 3.8 million items in 2007-2008 — an increase of 73.7%, while in Wales, the number of items dispensed rose by 168% between 2002 and 2017 to 5.6 million. In Northern Ireland, 3.1 million prescriptions were dispensed in 2017-18, up from 2.4 million in 2013-14.
‘It can be difficult to determine why prescribing rates fluctuate, these figures could indicate rising awareness of mental health conditions in society, and that more patients are feeling able to seek medical care for them – as well as demonstrating an improvement in the identification and diagnosis of mental health conditions,’ added Professor Lampard-Stokes. ‘Regardless of the reasons why someone might seek treatment for mental health conditions, GPs will take into account the physical, psychological and social factors potentially impacting on their health, as well as clinical guidelines, when formulating a diagnosis and treatment plan.’