Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the frequency and trends in prescriptions and recommendations for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for mental health disorders in children and adolescents in Canada from 2005 to 2009.
Method: Data were extracted from databases supplied by IMS Brogan (IMS), a proprietary source of pharmacoepidemiologic data. Analyses were performed to obtain descriptive statistics on SSRI prescriptions dispensed, SSRI drug recommendation frequency, reasons for drug recommendations (therapeutic indication), and median duration of use of SSRIs in Canadian children. Canadian census data were used to assess whether changes in SSRI use were related to changes in the number of children in Canada over the time period studied.
Results: SSRI prescriptions written by pediatricians increased by 39 %, while SSRI drug recommendations by all specialists for children and adolescents increased by 44 % over the 5-year interval. Over the 5-year period studied, fluoxetine was the most commonly recommended and dispensed SSRI. The use of escitalopram has increased while the use of paroxetine has declined. Between 2005 and 2009, the two most common therapeutic indications for SSRI recommendations were mood disorder (50 %) and anxiety disorder (25 %). Median treatment duration was less than 1 year, with duration generally increasing with patient age.
Conclusions: The increase in use of SSRIs in Canadian children and adolescents from 2005 to 2009 suggests that the effects of public health warnings concerning suicidal thinking and behavior associated with these drugs are now dissipating. This may be attributable to the FDA's pediatric approvals for fluoxetine and escitalopram, the growing comfort of clinicians with using SSRIs in children, limited availability of psychosocial treatments, and the influence of marketing. The use of paroxetine has continued to decline, likely because of specific warnings directed toward this agent and limited evidence supporting its efficacy.