The Government's drug safety agency Medsafe is investigating a
possible link between anti-depressant drugs such as Prozac and teen
and child suicide.
Young people in New Zealand use about 24,500 prescriptions of
anti-depressants each year but international research suggests the
drugs can spark suicidal thoughts.
Next week Medsafe's Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee is
expected to make a recommendation on use of the drugs in New
Since 1998, the number of New Zealand children using Selective
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, such as Prozac and Aropax, has
increased by almost two thirds - despite warnings from health
authorities about possible side-effects.
The drugs are not registered for use by children, but the
Ministry of Health says it is aware some doctors choose to prescribe
Anti-depressants are used mainly to treat depression, but can be
prescribed for other conditions, including anxiety disorders,
autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
In children under 6, anti-depressants are used to stop
bed-wetting or treat obsessive-compulsive behaviour.
Health Information Service figures showed the number of
anti-depressants given to 6-year-olds to 18-year-olds climbed from
14,963 "items dispensed" in 1998, to 24,597 in 2002. An "item" is
generally a one-month supply.
Adult use of the drugs increased by 56 per cent to 1,869,254
items, but use by children under 6 almost halved to 435 items
Medsafe principal adviser Stewart Jessamine said patients should
not suddenly stop taking their drugs and urged patients or parents
to discuss concerns with their doctors.
Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors available in New Zealand
* Citalopram (brand names: Cipramil, Celapram)
* Escitalopram (brand name: Lexapro)
* Fluoxetine (brand names: Fluox, Prozac)
* Fluvoxamine (brand name: Luvox)
* Paroxetine (brand name: Aropax)
* Sertraline (brand name: Zoloft)
* Venlafaxine (brand name: Efexor)
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