Dr Matthew Sadlier presented a talk at the Irish Medical Organisation AGM entitled “Antidepressants – a Modern Epidemic”. The title was chosen to attract an audience.
He also discusses the subject with Mary Wilson, on DriveTime, RTE Radio.
24% (390,000) of 1.6 million medical card holders in Ireland are on antidepressants and the proportion is rising and there is no data on the rest of the 3 million population. But it is estimated that 10-12% of the total population is on antidepressants without any evidence to support this. Now 10-12% of the population of 4.6 million would be 460,000 – 552,000. If we take away the 390,00 medical card holders known to be on the drugs that leaves, 70,000 – 162,000 on antidepressants, a rate of just 2-5 % of the remaining population of 3 million. Is this really likely to be the case?
And yet the headline in the Irish Times read
“Ten per cent of Irish adults are being prescribed antidepressants”
The Irish Independent similarly reports “Among the adult population as a whole between 10pc-12pc are taking antidepressants” as if it is a statement of fact. And worse it also reports that Dr Matthew Sadlier said “Antidepressants allow the brain to grow and adapt”. I wonder what evidence he provided to support this statement if indeed it was what he said.
Perhaps the prescribing of antidepressants has simply replaced the prescribing of benzodiazepines in Ireland.
Of course the number of patients taking antidepressants is only one part of the problem, how long they have been taking them for and whether or not they can get off the drugs, is the other. The drugs are said to be effective but for how long and what evidence is there for safety beyond short term use? These are surely questions that need to be addressed in Ireland just as elsewhere.
Dr Sadlier uses the Scottish Government review of antidepressant prescribing in 2008 as supporting evidence for appropriateness of prescribing. He does not seem to realise that the prescribing rate here in Scotland is now about 16% and rising year on year, and is even higher for the adult population. In 2014/15 approximately 3 million items were dispensed to patients from areas of highest deprivation and approximately 2.5 million to those in areas of less deprivation, as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.
He does not mention the ongoing campaign in Scotland and the rest of the UK on prescribed drug dependence, withdrawal or iatrogenic harm. Nor will he be aware that the Scottish Government, when responding to a FOI request, was unable to provide any documentation associated with that review in 2008.
He has clearly not read the many harrowing accounts of prescription drug damage submitted by affected patients or the many expert opinions also submitted highlighting the many problems associated with antidepressants. He will also be unaware that the Minister for Mental Health, Maureen Watt and Government Adviser, Dr John Mitchell, psychiatrist gave a very poor performance at the meeting of the Public Petitions Committee held on 18 January 2018. See petitioner’s response.
He did not mention on radio the year long review of prescribed drug dependence announced by Public Health England or the ongoing research into antidepressant withdrawal by Southampton University.
Nor did he mention that two complaints (to RCPsych and GMC) have been made re recent conduct and misleading information put into the public domain about antidepressants and antidepressant withdrawal by Profs Wendy Burn and David Baldwin of Royal College of Psychiatry.
I wonder if Dr Sadlier addressed any of these extremely important developments in his talk to the Irish Medical Organisation.