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Highway to Hell

Posted by shutah on September 27, 2007

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This will cause a ruckus. Verispan is reporting that total scrips for antidepressants for teenagers age 13 to 17 decreased nearly 18 percent between July 2003 and July 2007. And scrips for patients taking a drug for the first time fell 95 percent among all teenagers during the same 4-year period. (Go here).

The data shows that antidepressant scrips for teenagers have been declining for the past 4 years. In contrast, antidepressant scrips for patients 18 and older have grown approximately 13 percent during the same time period. [UPDATE: Verispan provided year-to-year data: As of July 2004, there were 5.8 million scrips written for teens 13 to 17 years old. That fell to 5.3 million the next year and 4.8 million in July 2006, before hitting 4.7 million this past July. Similarly, scrips fell to 2.3 million from 3.1 million during the same period for kids younger than 12.]

The American Psychiatric Association says the publicity in 2004 over the controversy linking the pills to suicide scared off many psychiatrists and patients from meds that may offer help to the depressed. They also blame the Black Box warnings the FDA required drugmakers to put on product labeling, although those didn’t appear until early 2005. The APA’s American Journal of Psychiatry recently published two studies arguing that point. It’s worth noting that the most recent study was funded, in part, by Pfizer and authored by researchers with financial ties to drugmakers that sell antidepressants.

In one respect, the Verispan data matches a trend seen in data from Medco, the pharmacy benefits manager, which found that….

…scrips for male and female youngsters between 10 and 19 years old were rising between 2001 and 2003, but the rate of growth was actually slowing. Then, 2004 was relatively flat. There was a dramatic drop in 2005, but scrips leveled off in 2006. Verispan’s data shows a 9 percent drop among teens from July 2004 to July 2005 and another 10 percent from July 2005 to July 2006. But from July 2006 to July 2007, scrips fell only 2 percent, suggesting the trend has finally slowed. As Express Scripts noted earlier this year in its annual Drug Trend report, “the decline prompted by suicidality warnings has subsided, and historical utilization growth should return.”

Meanwhile, Verispan is also reporting that visits by teenagers to physicians for depression fell 23 percent over the past 4 years. Visits by teenage males dropped by 28 percent, compared with a 23 percent declined among females. The percentage of teenage visits to docs for depression where a drug was issued dropped significantly – from 85 percent in the 12 months ending July 2004 to 69 percent in the 12 months ending July 2007.

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