bottle pillsThe number of antidepressants prescribed in England in the past decade has more than doubled to 61 million, new figures have revealed.

Figures published in a report by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) also revealed that prescription items for antidepressants saw the greatest numeric rise in 2015. 

The report, Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community 2005-2015, showed that there were 31.6 million antidepressant items prescribed and dispensed in England in 2015 than in 2005 – a rise of 107.6%. The total was also 6.8% (3.9 million) higher than in 2014. 

In 2015, antidepressants cost the NHS £780,000 per day, according to the HSCIC. This includes medicines for depressive illness, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and panic attacks. The five most commonly prescribed medicines in this category for 2015 were: citalopram hydrobromide, amitriptyline hydrochloride, sertraline hydrochloride, mirtazapine and fluoxetine hydrochloride.

Dr Liz England, clinical lead for mental health at the Royal College of GPs, said: “There could be a number of reasons for increased antidepressants prescribing, including greater awareness of mental health problems in society, and that patients are less inhibited to seek medical help for them, both of which are positive steps forward as we strive for parity of esteem between physical and mental health.

“GPs are highly trained to deal with patients of all ages with mental health conditions, and prescribe accordingly and appropriately. Prescribing is a core skill for GPs and patients can be assured that their family doctor will prescribe medication only when necessary, taking into account other medications being taken and when other alternatives, such as talking or mindfulness therapies, have been explored. 

“Whenever GPs do prescribe antidepressants it will have been after a full and frank discussion with the patient in front of them, and in the best interests of their health. 

“NHS England’s GP Forward View contains pledges to support GPs to continue providing the care our patients with mental health conditions need and deserve, and the College is calling for these to be implemented as a matter of urgency.”