Antidepressants prescribed twice as much in deprived areas

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Antidepressants prescribed twice as much in deprived areas

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Antidepressant drugs were prescribed to more than twice as many people in the most deprived parts of England compared to the least deprived in 2020-21, recently published NHS figures show.

The NHS BSA report on medicines used in mental health, published last Thursday (July 8), shows that across the areas scoring highest on the English Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) 1.21 million people were prescribed an antidepressant, compared to 550,000 people in the areas scoring lowest on the IMD.

A similar trend was observed for all other drug categories considered in the BSA’s report. The biggest discrepancy was seen with drugs used to treat psychoses, for which 163 per cent more patients in the most deprived parts of England received a prescription.

The data shows that the number of antidepressants being prescribed in the community continues to grow, though at a reduced rate than in the previous four years. In total, 7.79 million patients were prescribed at least one antidepressant drug item in 2020-21, up one per cent on 2019-20 and 15 per cent from 6.84 million patients in 2015-16.

However, the number of under-18s being prescribed an antidepressant was lower than in any of the previous four years at 65,300 patients, down from a peak of 68,800 in 2019-20.

Meanwhile the number of dementia drugs prescribed decreased for the first time in four years, as did the number of patients receiving a prescription for one. The BSA report indicates that the number of memantine hydrochloride items has hot up by 82.5 per cent from 828,000 in 2015-16 to 1.51 million items in 2020-21, while at two million items donepezil hydrochloride prescriptions were up 1.15 per cent from 2015-16 but down 6.94 per cent on 2019.20.

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