Objectives To assess the impact of both the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) warning (December 2003) and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance (September 2005) on antidepressant prescription rates in children and adolescents within the UK primary care service.
Setting Population based study of primary care antidepressant prescribing using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink (CPRD).
Participants Under-18s presenting to primary care with a depressive disorder or related diagnostic code recorded in the CPRD.
Primary outcome measure Antidepressant prescription rates per month per 100 000 depressed 4–17 year olds.
Results Following the CSM warning, the prior trend towards increased prescribing rates for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in children was significantly reversed (β for change in trend −12.34 (95% CI −18.67 to −6.00, p<0.001)). However, after the publication of the NICE guidelines the prior trend towards increased prescribing resumed for those SSRIs mentioned as potential treatments in the guidance (fluoxetine, citalopram and sertraline) (β for change in trend 11.52 (95% CI 5.32 to 17.73, p<0.001)). Prescribing of other SSRIs and tricyclics remained low.
Conclusions Despite a strong emphasis on psychosocial interventions for child and adolescent depression, it may be that the NICE guidelines inadvertently encouraged further antidepressant prescribing, at least for those SSRIs cited. Although the guidelines gave cautions and caveats for the use of antidepressants, practitioners may have interpreted these recommendations as endorsing their use in young people with depression and related conditions. However, more accurate prevalence trend estimates for depression in this age group, and information on the use of psychosocial interventions would be needed to rule out other reasons underlying this increase in prescribing.
- primary care
This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/.
Statistics from Altmetric.com
Contributors PAT led on project conception, design and statistical analyses. JLM led on data cleaning and linking. HC contributed to project design and data preparation. ASK contributed to data analysis and the supervision of statistical analyses. PW contributed to data preparation and cleaning. LWP contributed to statistical analyses. JMM contributed to the study design and additional supervision of statistical analyses. All authors contributed to the drafting and critical appraisal of the manuscript. All authors have approved the final version of the manuscript submitted.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement Data are available from the Clinical Practice Research Datalink via an application.
Patient consent for publication Not required.
If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.