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Antidepressants cost £40m a year in Scotland alone

The cost of prescribing antidepressants rose by �10 million last year. Picture: Getty

The cost of prescribing antidepressants rose by �10 million last year. Picture: Getty

  • by LYNDSAY BUCKLAND
 

MORE than £40 million was spent prescribing antidepressants in Scotland last year - up more than £10 million compared to the previous year, figures show.

Information Services Division (ISD) Scotland statistics show that in 2012/13 a total of £29.6 million was spent on antidepressants, rising to just over £40m in 2013/14.

Over the same period the number of antidepressant items dispensed increased by over 275,000 - from 5.2 million items to almost 5.5 million items.

And the cost per item dispensed also rose from £5.66 in 2012/13 to £7.29.

ISD Scotland said the large increase in the bill for antidepressants was due to a rise in the costs reimbursed by the NHS which is based on market forces and the demand for certain drugs.

Costs of the antidepressants affected are now believed to be falling again.

The Scottish Conservatives said the rise in antidepressant prescriptions came despite Scottish Government pledges that it would reduce the number of people described pills to battle depression and anxiety conditions.

The party said that not only was the rise in costs hitting hard-pressed NHS budgets, it was also not necessarily the best way of helping treat those with mild to moderate depression.

Many experts have suggested that alternatives such as counselling and encouraging a healthy lifestyle and other social changes could be more suitable in treating milder cases of depression rather than resorting to medication.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “The SNP made a very strong promise in 2007 to cut the rise in antidepressants handed out across Scotland.

“But since that pledge, the numbers have completely spiralled out of control.

“This is not only proving to be an incredible burden on the taxpayer, but there are many patients for whom a pill is not the best alternative.

“We need to get more imaginative in solving these problems, because it’s clear from these figures that simply fobbing people off with a tablet is not working. If anything, it’s making the problem worse.

“And that’s not to say that prescribing antidepressants has no place in modern health care, of course it does.

“It’s just that it is surely time for the Scottish Government to start listening to the experts and come up with a proper and sincere plan for how to turn these statistics around.”

ISD Scotland said the large increase in costs seen last year was down to a number of factors affecting the drugs market.

A couple of antidepressants were in short supply for one month, which would have played a part in some of the increase in costs, they said.

But the larger part of the rise was due to an increase in the tariff set for reimbursing pharmacies for dispensing a number of antidepressants, which is based on demand for those products in the market.

The tariff is set in a complex process by the NHS and Scottish Government, looking at drug prices and the state of the market to decide how much dispensers should receive to make sure those drugs are available. From this amount, dispensers purchase the drugs to make available to patients.

While the tariff price for a small number of antidepressants increased last year, early indications are that prices have now fallen again.

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