Banned drugs still being prescribed for children

Tens of thousands of children are still being prescribed powerful antidepressants despite guidance that they should not given to patients under 18 because of serious safety concerns.

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The National Institute for Clinical and Healthcare Excellence (Nice) issued recommendations last year on how doctors should deal with depression in children. It said children should be given advice on diet and exercise and a three-month course of counselling, with prescription drugs given only as a last resort.

However, the advice from Nice and the MHRA is not binding and allows doctors to use their discretion when prescribing. Many are believed to have continued prescribing antidepressants to children because of the lack of other mental health services. A survey of GPs found that 80 per cent believed they were prescribing SSRIs to too many adults and children.

“Banned” might be the wrong word to use, since the recommendations of NICE and of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are not binding. But the findings do point out a problem: that it is cheaper to medicate than to treat by non-pharmaceutical interventions.

This is a problem of financing and it probably affects countries such as the United States, which relies more heavily on private insurance, as well.

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