Antidepressant prescription for depression in general practice in the Netherlands

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ObjectiveTo evaluate diagnoses and the prescription of antidepressants drugs for depression, based on data from 1993 to 1998 related to consultations for depression in general practice in the Netherlands.MethodAn exploratory analysis of data provided by IMS Health. Consecutive annual representative samples of 640 GPs regularly registered data on morbidity and (drug) treatment for specific medical problems in special booklets for a period of one week. The data refer to consultations for depression. The diagnoses were initially based on ICD-9 criteria and later ICD-10 criteria for depression. Main outcome measures: Number of diagnoses of depression and number of prescriptions for antidepressants.ResultsThe number of first consultations for depression rose gradually, from 909 in 1993 (95% CI: 774 to 1043), to 1,482 (CI: 1292 to 1672) in 1998: an increase of 63%. For an individual GP, this represents an increase from 18 to 30 in first consultations for depression. The number of prescriptions for antidepressants also increased, mainly during repeat consultations: a 278% increase, from 3,708 in 1993 to 14,024 in 1998 (CIs: 3,504 to 3,912 and 13,252 to 14,796). Antidepressants were prescribed during the first consultation 564 times in 1993 compared with 1,080 times in 1998. The first contact with a GP for depression led to an antidepressant prescription in 62% of cases in 1993 and 73% in 1998. Although the guidelines issued by the Dutch College of General Practitioners in 1994 recommended tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) for the treatment of depression, paroxetin, fluoxetin, and mirtazapin (SSRIs) accounted for 56% of the prescribed antidepressants.ConclusionBetween 1993 and 1998, GPs in the Netherlands prescribed increasingly more antidepressants, and they prescribed more SSRIs than TCAs. Furthermore, GPs diagnose depression more frequently and the number of repeat consultations has increased.

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