Public Release: 

Steep increase in antidepressant use, study shows

University of Toronto

Canadians' use of antidepressants has soared by more than 300 per cent over the past two decades, says a study by researchers at the University of Toronto and The Hospital for Sick Children.

The study, published recently in The Annals of Pharmacotherapy, found a 353 per cent increase in prescriptions for antidepressants (from 3.2 million to 14.5 million) between 1981 and 2000. Correspondingly, Canada's population increased one per cent annually during this time.

"If you see such a high increase in a particular group of drugs, you have to ask important questions such as are more people sick or are more people being diagnosed?" says Professor Gideon Koren of U of T pharmacology, pediatrics, pharmacy, medicine and medical genetics and The Hospital for Sick Children. He co-authored the study with Professor Thomas Einarson of pharmacy and pharmacology graduate student Michiel Hemels. "First, it's fair to say that more people are diagnosed. There is more awareness, better understanding and less embarrassment by people to admit having depression. But a question remains, Is there more depression? While there are many possible causes - the collapse of the family as a source of strength, stress and the need to work more hours - I don't think we can point to one factor as the only or most important one."

The study also found that total expenditures on antidepressants jumped from $31.4 million to $543.4 million, with the cost per prescription climbing from $9.85 in 1981 to $37.44 in 2000. Possible reasons for the increase include greater availability of new products with higher acquisition costs, increasing costs across the industry and the growing number of users. The Canadian findings reflect similar trends in other Western countries, Koren says.

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ADDITIONAL CONTACT INFORMATION: Professor Gideon Koren, The Hospital for Sick Children, 416-813-5781, gkoren@sickkids.ca

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