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    Study: Child Antidepressant Use Down

    But Decline Corresponds With Suicide Increase

    16% Decline in 6 Months continued...

    Prescriptions declined by 5% during the first quarter of 2004 and 11% in the second quarter of 2004. Rates stabilized after July and have just begun to move upward, according to study co-author Elisa Cascade, MBA, vice president of Quintiles Transnational.

    The researchers also confirmed a shift away from generalized care and toward more specialized care by psychiatrists and other mental health professionals for depressed patients 18 and younger.

    While this sounds like a good thing, it may mean fewer depressed kids and teens are being treated because of a shortage of pediatric psychiatrists, Kalali says.

    “Anytime there are safety issues associated with a medication, primary care physicians are going to be less confident about prescribing that medication,” he says.

    If generalists are referring young patients to specialists but there aren’t enough specialists to go around, that could mean patients get no care at all, he says.

    The study is published in the April issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

    18% Rise in Suicides

    Just two months ago, the CDC reported that suicide rates among children and teens rose by more than 18% during 2004.

    David Shern, PhD, president of the patient advocacy group Mental Health America, tells WebMD that the 2004 FDA hearings did not include enough discussion about the dangers of failing to prescribe antidepressants to depressed children and adolescents.

    Now we see an increase in suicides following years of declines,” he says. “We are not in the position to draw causal inferences, but this gives us good reason to pause and be concerned.”

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