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RANZCP concerned by reporting of safety data

13 December 2005

RANZCP concerned that adolescents may be prevented from getting full access to SSRI treatment

The New Zealand Branch of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) says it is concerned inaccurate reporting of safety data relating to the prescription of newer SSRI antidepressants in adolescents may be preventing this group from getting full access to treatment.

RANZCP spokesperson, Dr Arran Culver, said today depression was a major cause of youth suicide in New Zealand but it was treatable, and the SSRI medication Fluoxetine had been shown to be both effective and safe for adolescents.

“There is no evidence that SSRI medications cause suicide in adolescents,” he said.

The youth suicide rate in New Zealand had fallen steadily over the past seven years, in conjunction with an increase in the prescription of SSRI antidepressant medication for adolescents. While there had been a very small increase in suicidal thoughts and behaviour, this was common in adolescent depression.

Dr Culver said the increased number of prescriptions was due to a combination of better access to assessment and treatment for depression, longer and more effective periods of treatment, and more people being able to fill their prescriptions due to Primary Health Organisation subsidies.

“However, New Zealand has the sixth highest youth suicide rate in the world and there is no room for complacency,” he said.

Dr Culver said the Pharmaceutical Management Agency of New Zealand (PHARMAC) was to be congratulated for maintaining the total level of expenditure on antidepressant medications during the 2004/2005-year, which saw an increased number of prescriptions filled.

ENDS

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