“Claims hit use of anti-depressants”
Financial Times - July 7, 2004
By Christopher Bowe in New York
Prescriptions for anti-depressants in the US are falling amid controversy surrounding claims that the drugs increase the risk of suicidal tendencies in children.
Total US anti-depressants prescription growth was flat in May, while new prescriptions fell in the month, according to IMS Health data.
While new prescriptions for the drugs rose 7.7 per cent in March, growth then fell to 1.1 per cent in April and declined 3.6 per cent in May.
Total anti-depressant prescription growth was 9.5 per cent in March, falling to 4.5 per cent in April and zero in May.
"[The fall in prescription growth] has a lot to do with recent reporting of suicide [behaviour] and children," said Ding Ding, analyst at Lehman Brothers. "The market has slowed in the last few months."
Anti-depressants, and their makers, have seen increasing scrutiny over the last year. Specifically, concerns have been raised about the drugs' potential to increase suicidal behaviour in children.
No anti-depressants have gained regulatory approval for use by minors, except Eli Lilly's Prozac.
Last month Eliot Spitzer, New York attorney-general, sued Glaxo- SmithKline for fraud, alleging it suppressed negative findings while promoting Paxil as safe for depressed children.
In March, however, the US Food and Drug Administration warned that all patients' behaviour should be monitored while on anti-depressants. It is awaiting an independent study by Columbia University of the trial data on minors and anti-depressants. The global market for the drugs was $19.5bn last year.
Many experts and the industry argue depression is a complex disease, with suicidal tendencies a common symptom, and without modern anti-depressants suicide rates could be higher. The American Psychiatric Association fact sheet on children, mental illness and medicines says they "appear safe and effective" in children and adolescents.
The anti-depressant market is also likely to continue expanding overall, according to analysts. Lilly's new Cymbalta is expected to win regulatory approval in September, bringing an advanced anti-depressant to the market. Lehman Brothers predicts it will have $3bn in peak annual sales.