(Corrects final paragraph to show the FDA did not approve
Seoquel's use in children, but an FDA advisory panel)
* Most mental health drugs prescribed by family doctors
* Doctors' role raises concerns about quality of care
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON, Sept 30 Fifty-nine percent of U.S.
mental health drug prescriptions are written by family doctors,
not psychiatrists, raising concerns about the quality of some
treatments, according to a study released on Wednesday.
Researchers from Thomson Reuters (TRI.TO) and the U.S.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
examined 472 million prescriptions written for psychotropic drugs
from August 2006 and July 2007.
They found that general practitioners prescribed the bulk of
prescriptions in two main categories -- 62 percent of
antidepressants and 52 percent of stimulants.
The stimulants were mainly drugs for treating attention
deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. About 25 percent of all
stimulant prescriptions examined were written by pediatricians,
they reported in the journal Psychiatric Services.
Family doctors also wrote 37 percent of prescriptions for
drugs used to treat psychosis and prescribed 22 percent of
anti-mania medications, the study showed.
The researchers said the findings are important because
published independent research suggests that most people treated
for depression are more likely to get adequate care in specialist
psychiatric settings than from a family doctor.
"The main concern is whether people are getting followed up
adequately," said Tami Mark, director of analytic strategies for
the healthcare and science business of Thomson Reuters, the
parent company of Reuters.
"You need to make sure people are coming in after you start
them on these medications, to see if they're having adverse
effects. A lot of people may not be getting followed up when
they're seeing their GP," Mark said.
The researchers were startled to find that 37 percent of
antipsychotic drugs were prescribed by general practitioners.
"The fact that antipsychotics may be more complex to
prescribe, have some potentially serious side-effects, further
emphasizes the need to understand the adequacy of care being
provided by a GP," Mark said.
At least 27 million Americans take antidepressants, more than
double the number who did in the mid-1990s, according to a study
published last month in the Archives of General Psychiatry.
Drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which
affect the brain chemical serotonin, like GlaxoSmithKline's
(GSK.L) Paxil and Eli Lilly and Co.'s (LLY.N) Prozac are the most
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued its
strongest warning -- the so-called black box warning -- on the
use of all antidepressants because of a higher risk of suicide
among patients under 25.
Millions of people take ADHD drugs including Novartis AG's
NOVN.VX Ritalin and Shire Plc's (SHP.L) Adderall and Vyvanse.
Calls to poison control centers for U.S. teenagers who
overdose on ADHD drugs have also soared, although the reasons are
An FDA advisory panel this year backed the wider use of three
widely used antipsychotic drugs for children -- Lilly's Zyprexa,
AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) Seroquel and Pfizer's (PFE.N) Geodon.
(Editing by Maggie Fox and Cynthia Osterman)