HC Deb 27 October 2003 vol 412 cc95-6WS
Mr. Hendry

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many 11 to 17-year-olds are diagnosed as suffering from depression; what proportion or that age group this figure represents; and how many of those diagnosed are being prescribed anti-depressants, broken down by age. [134039]

Dr. Ladyman

[holding answer 23 October 2003]: Information is not collected in the form requested. A study undertaken by the Office of National Statistics in 1999 found that 1.8 per cent. of children aged 11 to 15 suffer from depression.

The table shows the estimated number of prescription items of anti-depressants issued in the community for children in 2001 and 2002. Children are defined as 0 to 15-year-olds and those aged 16 to 18-year-olds in full time education. They form approximately one per cent. of the total number of prescriptions issued for anti-depressants.

Estimated number of prescription items of anti-depressant drugs dispensed in the community in England for children in 2001 and 2002
Prescription items
2001 240.00
2002 260.00

Mr. Hendry

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what research his Department has commissioned into links between the consumption of anti-depressants by young people and the risk of suicide; and if he will make a statement; [134041]

(2) what restrictions there are on the prescription of anti-depressants to under 18s. [134042]

Dr. Ladyman

[holding answer 23 October 2003]: No antidepressants are licensed for the treatment of depressive illness in children and adolescents in the United Kingdom. Doctors are able to legally prescribe medicines outside their licensed indications if they consider it is in the best interests of their patient.

On the basis of advice from their independent expert working group on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) has issued advice that paroxetine (Seroxat) and venlafaxine (Efexor) should not be used in the treatment of depression in children and adolescents under 18 years. This followed review of clinical trial data which suggested an increased risk of self harm and potentially suicidal behaviour in those treated with paroxetine or venlafaxine, compared with those given placebo.

The safety and efficacy of other SSRIs in children and adolescents is under review by the expert working group. The working group is also providing input to the Europe-wide consideration of the safety of paroxetine, which is being led by the Netherlands and the UK on behalf of the Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products.

As part of the review of the safety of SSRIs, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has commissioned a study using general practitioner records to investigate whether there is an association between the consumption of antidepressants, including SSRIs, and suicide. This study includes children and adolescents. Interim guidance has been provided to all doctors and pharmacists in the CSM's bulletin. "Current Problems in Pharmacovigilance." The National Institute of Clinical Excellence is in the process of drafting guidelines on the treatment of depression in children and adolescents.

Mr. Hendry

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on(a) the Government's policy on tackling depression in young people and (b) the steps he is taking to raise awareness of depression in young people. [134043]

Dr. Ladyman

[holding answer 23 October 2003]: The Department, together with the Welsh Assembly, has asked the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to develop a clinical guideline on the management of depression in children and young people in primary, community and secondary care for use in the National Health Service in England and Wales. The guideline will provide recommendations for good practice that are based on the best available evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness.

The Department has also commissioned the "Mind Out of Mental Health" campaign to work with its partners in the voluntary sector, the media, employers and youth student organisations to raise awareness of mental health problems, as well as combating the stigma and sidcrimination surrounding mental health. They provide advice and information on a range of mental health problems including depression. The "Wired for Health website at www.wiredforhealth.gov.uk/ is another useful source of information.

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