Antidepressant prescriptions in England hit 70m

The number of antidepressant prescriptions dispensed in England exceeded 70 million last year, figures show.

A total of 70.9 million items to treat conditions including depression and anxiety were given out in 2018, according to data published by NHS Digital.

This is almost double the number dispensed a decade ago in 2008, when there were 36 million. It is also a rise from 67.5 million in 2017 and 64.7 million in 2016.

The figure includes all items dispensed by the NHS in England, except those given out in hospitals or private prescriptions.

Prescriptions dispensed in England for antidepressants (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

The overall cost of prescriptions dispensed in the community in England decreased by 3.7% last year, from £9.2 billion in 2017 to £8.8 billion in 2018.

The total number of prescription items dispensed increased slightly, by 0.3% from 1.1 billion in 2017.

Prescriptions for some low-value over-the-counter medicines have been cut since 2017 in a bid to save the health service millions of pounds a year.

Paracetamol, cold treatments and cough mixture are among the products that are no longer routinely prescribed as a result.

An NHS England spokesman said: “While antidepressants play an important role for some patients, an attitude of ‘a pill for every ill’ can mean not only do some people end up taking medicine they don’t need to, but taxpayer funding is spent on avoidable prescriptions.

“This is why the NHS is rolling out alternatives to medication, like 1,000 social prescribing link workers giving people care and advice tailored to their condition and, for mental health issues, the world’s most ambitious programme of talking therapies which can resolve common conditions like depression and anxiety.”

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