A surprising new study finds that doctors are prescribing antidepressants to people for totally different reasons.
Doctors are prescribing antidepressants to millions of people who aren’t even suffering from depression, a new study has found.
Antidepressants have experienced a huge boom in sales, likely driven by prescribing the drugs for ailments other than depression, which accounts for a little more than half of all antidepressant prescriptions in the Canadian province of Quebec in the last decade, according to a JAMA Network Journals statement.
Antidepressants have become popular among doctors for treating anxiety, insomnia, chronic pain, migraines, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and many other “off-label” conditions. In fact, two-thirds of all non-depression prescriptions for antidepressants had an off-label purpose, according to the study.
This is a bit of a concerning trend, the study’s authors stated, as there’s no indication whether the drug is going to be effective for these off-label uses as they haven’t been rigorously studied. Basically, doctors are prescribing blind, they said.
Researchers evaluated 102,000 antidepressant prescriptions written by 158 physicians for 120,000 patients in Quebec between 2006 and 2015. They found that only 55 percent of antidepressant prescriptions were for depression. Anxiety was the most common other condition treated at 18.5 percent.
“The findings indicate that the mere presence of an antidepressant prescription is a poor proxy for depression treatment, and they highlight the need to evaluate the evidence supporting off-label antidepressant use,” the authors said in the statement.
The statement adds: “During the study period, 101,759 antidepressant prescriptions (6 percent of all prescriptions) were written by 158 physicians for 19,734 patients. Only 55 percent of antidepressant prescriptions were indicated for depression. Physicians also prescribed antidepressants for anxiety disorders (18.5 percent), insomnia (10 percent), pain (6 percent) and panic disorders (4 percent). For 29 percent of all antidepressant prescriptions (66 percent of prescriptions not for depression), physicians prescribed a drug for an off-label indication, especially insomnia and pain. Physicians also prescribed antidepressants for several indications that were off-label for all antidepressants, including migraine, vasomotor symptoms of menopause, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and digestive system disorders.”