Background: There is little evidence to guide the frequency of review for patients taking antidepressants in the longer term.
Objectives: To measure the frequency with which patients on longer term courses of antidepressants have their treatment monitored in primary care and to identify patient characteristics associated with the frequency of monitoring.
Methods: A cohort of patients who were receiving antidepressants continuously for at least two years was identified from four general practices. Data were collected from patients' general medical records. The dates of all GP consultations and whether they included a documented review of antidepressant therapy were recorded, along with patient characteristics hypothesized to influence the frequency of monitoring.
Results: The frequency of antidepressant review consultations and proportion of participants being reviewed during a specific year of antidepressant therapy decreased with increasing year of antidepressant therapy. Individuals who receive antidepressants for an overt mental health reason; undergo more dose and drug changes; and who are referred to the community mental health team have their antidepressant therapy reviewed more often during the first five years of antidepressant therapy.
Conclusion: As many patients on longer term courses of antidepressants are not being appropriately reviewed, a 'chronic disease management approach' to depression in primary care is advocated.
Keywords: Antidepressive agents; drug monitoring; general practice; long-term care; primary health care..
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