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Concern at increase in prescription of anti-depressants drugs

21 December, 2004

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Cllr John O'Dowd MLA has expressed concern over the increased levels of prescription of anti-depressant drugs, particularly Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI's).

Cllr O'Dowd said:

"Figures supplied to me today by the NIO health minister Angela Smith show that the level of prescriptions for these types of drugs has increased dramatically in the Six Counties in recent years. In 1999, a total of 467,555 SSRI prescription items were dispensed in the North. By the end of 2003, this figure had reached 694,096 items. These figures do not include prescriptions issued and dispensed in a hospital setting or private prescriptions.

"Earlier this month, new guidelines governing the use and prescription of anti-depressant drugs were issued by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence). There has been widespread concern about the increased use of SSRI's and in particular the widespread of practice of issuing repeat prescriptions. The addictive nature of these drugs is demonstrated by the immense difficulties experienced by many people trying to stop using the drugs.

"However, the new clinical guidelines issued earlier this month will be of little use on their own unless the government demonstrates a willingness to increase the levels of funding for the provision of additional mental health practitioners and counselling services to assist those people suffering from clinical depression.

"The need for this additional funding is extremely urgent given that a number of health boards and trusts across the North are already under pressure to review their service planning due to the inadequate levels of funding for such services being made available under the British government's budget for the Six Counties which was published yesterday." ENDS

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