Many Antidepressant Scripts Written for Off-Label Purpose

Two out of three non-depression prescriptions for an off-label purpose

WEDNESDAY, May 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Depression accounts for only a little more than half the antidepressant prescriptions issued by Quebec physicians during the past decade, and two out of every three non-depression prescriptions are for an off-label purpose, according to a research letter published in the May 24/31 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Robyn Tamblyn, Ph.D., a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at McGill University in Montreal, and colleagues gathered electronic medical records generated by primary care physicians in Quebec between 2006 and 2015. During that period, 101,759 antidepressant prescriptions were written by 158 physicians for 119,734 patients.

The researchers found that only 55.2 percent of antidepressant prescriptions were for depression. Other illnesses treated with antidepressants included: anxiety disorders (18.5 percent); insomnia (10.2 percent); chronic pain (6.1 percent); and panic disorders (4.1 percent). In several conditions listed, no antidepressant has ever been approved for their treatment, the researchers noted. For 29.4 percent of all antidepressant prescriptions, and 65.6 percent of prescriptions not for depression, physicians prescribed a drug for an off-label indication.

"The thing that's of concern here is that when prescribing for conditions other than depression, often these are for indications such as fibromyalgia and migraine where it's unknown whether the drug is going to be effective, because it's never been studied," Tamblyn told HealthDay. "These doctors are prescribing in the dark."

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