Objective: To examine inceptions and discontinuations of antidepressants in general practice. Design: An observational study analysing data from an ongoing cross sectional postal survey. Every three months a representative sample of 250 doctors recorded prescribing activity for four weeks. This provided 4000 general practitioner weeks of recording per year. Setting: A representative panel of general practitioners in England, Wales, and Scotland. Subjects: Patients who began a new course of an antidepressant or had their treatment stopped or changed by the general practitioner between 1 July 1990 and 30 June 1995. Main outcome measures: Numbers of patients prescribed a new course of antidepressant; numbers discontinuing treatment; the ratio of antidepressant discontinuations to antidepressant inceptions; reasons for discontinuation; proportion of switches to another antidepressant. Results: There were 13,619 inceptions and 3934 discontinuations of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants during the study. The number of newly prescribed courses of antidepressants increased by 116%, mostly due to an increase in prescribing of serotonin reuptake inhibitors. The ratio of total discontinuations to inceptions was significantly lower for serotonin reuptake inhibitors (22%) than for tricyclic antidepressants (33%). Differences persisted when controlled for age and sex of patients and severity of depression. However, there was more switching away from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors when they failed (12%) than from tricyclic antidepressants (58%). Conclusions: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are less likely than tricyclic antidepressants to be discontinued. A prospective study is needed in general practice to assess the implications of differences in discontinuation rates and switches on clinical and economic outcomes.
|Number of pages||6|
|Journal||British Medical Journal|
|Publication status||Published - 1997|