Data obtained from The Guardian newspaper has revealed that over 166,000 consumers under the age of 18 were given antidepressant medication between April 2015 and June 2016, including 537 aged six or under.
These figures really shouldn't shock and are, more than likely, underestimated. Quite why the Guardian are only revealing statistics for those 18 and under is a mystery. The current recommendations is for antidepressants not to be used in treating anyone 24 and under - so we have a absence of data here.
To offer balance, albeit in the form of professionals with links to the pharmaceutical industry, the Guardian quoted David Taylor, who is a spokesperson for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society. He claimed, Antidepressants are only used in children in circumstances where there is clear support from robust clinical trials. Adolescents with anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder may be prescribed antidepressants, and fluoxetine is used in depression.
Robust clinical trials?
Where are those 'robust' clinical trials he refers to?
Offering balance, Dr Antonis Kousoulis, a clinician and assistant director at the Mental Health Foundation, said the figures show we are failing to provide a choice of age-appropriate psychological treatments at the point of the need
. He continued, GPs over prescribe antidepressants often because of the long waiting lists for specialist services,
adding. But the evidence that these medicines are effective in children is not as comprehensive as is it for drugs for other conditions.
Surely we can't use long-waiting lists for psychological treatments as an excuse to put children and adolescents in danger?
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also weighed in with, "antidepressants should be given only to teenagers and children with moderate or severe depression."
This goes against the recommendations of both the manufacturers of these drugs and the limp-wristed regulatory agency who claim to protect the public from harm from unsafe drugs.
NICE also claimed, "Fluoxetine (Prozac), which is sold under the trade name Prozac, is the only drug recommended for younger people, but other medication can be used as second-line treatment if fluoxetine does not work."
Really, other medication can be used?
I've long had a beef about the word 'recommendation'. In a blog post of mine from 2014, "Not Recommended"
, I highlighted how this term is, in essence, nothing more than a legal requirement. It protects the pharmaceutical industry and the regulator because they can always claim, after an antidepressant-induced death that, they have both warned about antidepressant use in this age group. It covers them legally and the only ones left to blame are the prescribing doctors who, in their defence, will claim there's a long waiting list for psychological treatments so "I had to prescribe something."
What they are prescribing are a series of mind-altering drugs known to cause suicidal feelings and, in many instances, suicidal completion. With comments and advice from the likes of NICE, the Mental Health Foundation, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society doctors in the UK must be as confused as I.
It's crystal clear, to me at least, that the warning needs to change. "Not recommended"
needs to be dropped and replaced with must not be used
in children and adolescents.
Of course, it would be too much to ask the British drug regulator (MHRA) to come out and oppose the prescribing of these drugs to kids. Recent communications between the MHRA and myself has shown that they want paying for information regarding the suicides in clinical trials of all SSRI's - see MHRA Seek Payment For Info on Deadly Drugs
If a regulator are reluctant to release the full information about these drugs then what hope do doctors have when deciding whether or not they are safe? Oh, I know, the "not recommended" cop out!
What is startling about these recent figures is that 537 consumers, aged six or younger, were prescribed these mind altering drugs. But don't expect any response other than, "We have warned practitioners that these groups of meds are not recommended for this age group."
The Guardian article can be read here