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Greens call for ban on risky anti-depressants

Greens call for ban on risky anti-depressants

Green MP Sue Kedgley is calling on the Minister of Health to direct Medsafe to prohibit GPs from prescribing potentially dangerous anti-depressants to children and teenagers.

"Frankly, Medsafe's unwillingness to ban the prescribing of SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) anti-depressants to children under the age of 18 is inexplicable," said Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Health spokesperson. "It is particularly concerning in light of evidence that about 25,000 prescriptions are dispensed each year for under-18s, a 60 per cent increase since 1998.

"One has to ask whether the interests of drug companies are being put ahead of public health. Here we have an anti-depressant drug which overseas experts say is potentially damaging for young people, increases their risk of suicide and aggression, and is not even helpful or useful in treating depression."

"All SSRI's except Prozac are prohibited from sale to under 18-year-olds in the UK, and severely restricted in the USA. Why wont our government take a similar precautionary approach?" Ms Kedgley asked.

Ms Kedgley said Medsafe had failed to protect public health by at least requiring drug companies to put prominent warnings on the drug's label.

"Medsafe has done nothing to warn New Zealanders that SSRI anti-depression drugs have been established as causing suicide. "It has done nothing to protect the thousands of unsuspecting New Zealanders who, in good faith, have been consuming these drugs believing them to be safe and effective."

Ms Kedgley said Medsafe's claim that it had not approved the drug for young people in New Zealand was not credible. "Medsafe knows that doctors are prescribing them to some 25,000 children. Medsafe cannot keep its head in the sand and pretend this isn't happening."

Ms Kedgley said it was extremely concerning that so many young people were being prescribed anti-depressants, rather than given counselling.

"Counselling is far more effective than swallowing pills in treating young people with depression," said Ms Kedgley. "However, the lack of adolescent counselling services offering alternatives such as cognitive behaviour therapy is creating a situation in which GPs find themselves in a very difficult position.

"The Minister should ensure that there are services available to GPs to refer adolescents, rather than having to resort to these potentially dangerous drugs."

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