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Two further treatments for depression to be funded

25 November 2010

Media release

Two further treatments for depression to be funded

PHARMAC is adding two further treatments for depression to the Pharmaceutical Schedule from 1 December 2010.

Sertraline and escitalopram are both being funded without restriction for patients with depression. Both medicines are of the antidepressant class known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Three SSRI antidepressants are already funded.

PHARMAC medical director Dr Peter Moodie says sertraline and escitalopram will be useful additions to the funded treatment options doctors have for patients with depression.

“All these medicines have very similar effectiveness but some may be more suitable for some people than others,” he says. “Funding two further treatments widens choice and will make it easier for doctors to tailor treatment for their patients.”

“The clinical advice we have received is that both sertraline and escitalopram may be more effective for some patients, while also being better tolerated by some patients.”

Funding the new antidepressants is unlikely to significantly grow the number of people prescribed antidepressants; however, it will require additional funding of about $700,000 over the next two and a half years, he says.

Dr Moodie says PHARMAC is aware of ongoing debate over the use of antidepressants.

“Ultimately it is up to clinicians to make the best decisions on how to treat their patients” says Dr Moodie. “PHARMAC’s role is to ensure doctors have the tools available to enable them to do their job while also supporting that by giving doctors access to evidence-based information on best practice prescribing. Both escitalopram and sertraline have a place in evidence-based clinical practice and I am sure that doctors will welcome this decision to fund them.”

PHARMAC will be funding the Loxalate brand of escitalopram and Arrow-Sertraline.

ENDS

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