Prevalence and Prescription of Antidepressants in Depression with Somatic Comorbidity in Asia: The Research on East Asian Psychotropic Prescription Patterns Study

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Background:Depression is often comorbid with chronic somatic diseases. Few previous studies have investigated the prevalence of somatic diseases in depression or the prescription pattern of antidepressants in comorbidly depressed patients in Asia. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of somatic comorbidity (SC) in depression and compared the prescriptions of antidepressants in depressed patients with and without SC.Methods:A total of 2320 patients treated with antidepressants in 8 Asian countries were examined, and a diagnosis was based on the International Classification of Disease, 10th revision. We listed 17 common chronic somatic diseases. Patients’ socio-demographic and clinical characteristics and psychotropic drug prescriptions were recorded using a standardized protocol and data collection procedure.Results:Of the patients examined, 1240 were diagnosed with depression and 30% of them (n = 375) had SC. The most common comorbid condition was diabetes (23.7%). The patients with SC were more likely to seek help at a general hospital (74.7% vs. 47.2%), and had a higher incidence of symptoms involving sadness, disturbed sleep, and poor appetite. Noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressant was prescribed more for patients with SC than for those without SC (30.4% vs. 22.9%).Conclusions:SC is common in depressed Asian patients. It is important to strengthen the recognition of depression, especially in general hospitals and when patients report some somatic discomfort. It is also a matter of urgency to establish evidence-based guidelines for the use of new antidepressants in depressed patients with SC.

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