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Antidepressant related deaths and antidepressant prescriptions in England and Wales (1998-2000)

Webb, L and Cheeta, Survjit and Schifano, Fabrizio and Oyefeso, Adenekan and Hamid-Ghodse, A. (2004) Antidepressant related deaths and antidepressant prescriptions in England and Wales (1998-2000). The British journal of psychiatry, 184 (1). pp. 41-47. ISSN 0007-1250

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Abstract

Background Deaths from antidepressants continue to account for a substantial proportion of drug-related deaths. Aims To investigate the relative toxicity of the major classes of antidepressant drugs, with the specific objective of assessing this in relation to the cause of death; and to analyse the deaths where there were multiple mentions of antidepressant drugs or other psychoactive drugs with antidepressants. Method Mortality data were collected from the National Programme of Substance Abuse Deaths, and antidepressant prescription data were collected. Results Mostdeaths from antidepressant drugs were suicides (80%). Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) accounted for more drug mentions than did other antidepressant drugs (12 per million prescriptions). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were associated with a significantly lower risk of toxicity, but 93% of deaths from SSRIs occurred in combination with other drugs, especially TCAs (24.5%). In ‘combination’ deaths patients were significantly more likely to have had a history of drug misuse. Conclusions The efficacy and safety of augmentation therapy with TCAsin SSRI-resistant patients should be monitored carefully, and patients prescribed antidepressants should be screened for drug use/misuse.

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