Saturday, May 18, 2024

The Antidepressant Myth

Myth: Off-label use of antidepressants is strongly supported by research.

Truth: This is false.

Antidepressants are a group of drugs that are used, primarily, to treat depression. However, depression is not the only condition that antidepressants are prescribed for. Antidepressants have been prescribed to patients to treat other mental conditions, including anxiety, eating disorders, sleep disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although not as common, antidepressants have been used to treat other conditions not related to mental health, including menopausal symptoms, fibromyalgia, and chronic neuropathic pain.

Although off-label use of antidepressants is increasing, a new study published in the British Medical Journal has found that there is a lack of scientific research that supports the use of antidepressants for conditions other than depression. This descriptive study analyzed a total of 106,850 antidepressant prescriptions from 174 physicians in Quebec, Canada to determine the conditions drugs were prescribed for, and the accompanying research that supported these prescriptions.

The results found that tricyclic antidepressants were the most commonly prescribed antidepressants for off-label indications. As well, the researchers determined that out of all cases of off-label antidepressant use, only 16% of cases were backed by strong scientific research. Surprisingly, it was found that in all of the cases where there was no evidence to support off-label use, 40% of the time there was supporting evidence for another antidepressant of the same class to treat the indication.

Read more about off-label use of antidepressants here.

Reference

  1. Wong J, Motulsky A, Abrahamowicz M, Eguale T, Buckeridge DL, Tamblyn R. Off-label indications for antidepressants in primary care: Descriptive study of prescriptions from an indication based electronic prescribing system. BMJ. Published online 2017. doi:10.1136/bmj.j603
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