10 Oct 2012

Pharmac monitoring use of anti-depressants

6:30 pm on 10 October 2012

The Government's drug-buying agency, Pharmac, says it is monitoring the growing use of anti-depressants in New Zealand.

Researchers from Auckland University say the use of anti-depressants has doubled in the past six years in line with world trends, with one in 10 New Zealanders prescribed the medication each year.

Pharmac's medical director Peter Moodie describes the rise in the use of anti-depressants as steady. He says the agency is now capturing all the relevant prescription data.

Mr Moodie says there is much less stigma involved with admitting to depression because of the various mental health campaigns over recent years and people are finding it easier to ask their doctor for help.

Pharmac spends $21 million a year on anti-depressants from its total budget of $800 million.

The researchers are investigating why the use of anti-depressants has doubled in the past six years and what consumers think of the drugs.

Professor John Read, from the university's psychology department, says at least 1800 people have taken part in an anonymous on-line survey on the medications and he is looking for more.

The survey asks people why they were prescribed anti-depressants, whether they took them and what their experiences were.

Professor Read says a dramatic world-wide increase in the use of the drugs has alarmed some researchers and he is hoping to survey 3000 people in total.