|NHS fears over children being
||December 18 2003|
|THE NHS is to collect
information on the number of youngsters in Scotland being given
anti-depressants for the first time, because of fears that GPs are
campaigners estimate there could be as many as 5000 children north
of the border being given controversial drugs, such as Seroxat, by
their family doctors.
follows a report last week by the Committee on Safety of Medicines,
which said the majority of the most commonly-prescribed type of
anti-depressants are not suitable for children.
Children's depression is different from that of
adults, partly because the brain is still
The committee found
there was an increased rate of insomnia, agitation, weight loss,
headache, tremor, loss of appetite, self-harm and suicidal thoughts
in those treated with some anti-depressants, known as selective
serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), compared with a
The NHS has no details of
the sex and age of children being prescribed the drugs, or details
of where they live.
found the risks of treating depressive illness in under-18s with
certain SSRIs – Lustral, Cipramil, Cipralex, Faverin, Seroxat, and
Efexor – outweighed the benefits.
However, clinical trials found that Prozac appears
to have a positive balance of risks and benefits in the treatment of
depressive illness in the same age group.
In June, medical experts expressed concern over the
use of Seroxat for children because of fears it can increase the
risk of suicidal thoughts and self-harm.
Yesterday, in response to growing concern, the
information and statistics division (ISD) for NHS Scotland announced
that it would start collating figures in the new
An ISD spokesman said: "This
will help us provide information to the NHS that shows they are
being prescribed appropriately and to identify how many children are
taking anti-depressant drugs and what areas they are coming
Young Minds, a charity
committed to improving mental health among children, said it was
worrying that the NHS in Scotland had no idea how many children are
being prescribed anti-depressants. It said that without accurate
figures it was impossible to ensure children are being prescribed
properly or to answer questions about the drugs'
Urging doctors to look at
alternative treatments, Lee Miller, a spokesman for the charity,
said: "This could be having a terrible consequence on the health of
children in Scotland.
important to be able to have accurate information so that we can
look to see how young people are when they are prescribed these
drugs, to see if they are getting younger from year to
Mr Miller said it was
important to make sure that other therapies, such as cognitive
behaviour therapy and family therapies, which have very good track
records in treating children with depression, are invested in as
much as drugs.
director of policy at the Scottish Association for Mental health,
said GPs should look to "talking treatments" as often as possible,
adding: "They (GPs) can offer counselling and psychological
intervention. There may be social problems for the child as well, so
pyscho-social intervention may help.
"Nutritional remedies can also work if there are
issues with diet and vitamins deficiencies.
"The problem for doctors, however, is there are six
to nine-month waiting lists for these treatments, so what does a
doctor do when presented with a youngster with depression and in
need of immediate treatment? Sometimes prescribing a drug is the
information officer for Depression Alliance Scotland, said that
depression is not something that can easily be
"It is a disorder with
many symptoms which people can suffer from in different ways and to
number of children being prescribed anti-depressants, and what areas
in the country are worst affected, is certainly something to be
Professor Gordon Duff,
chairman of the Committee on Safety of Medicines, emphasised that
young people taking any SSRI other than Prozac should not stop
taking their medicine without consulting with their doctor
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