Evidence of prescription of antidepressants for non-psychiatric conditions in primary care: An analysis of guidelines and systematic reviews

BMC Family Practice (Impact Factor: 1.67). 05/2013; 14(1):55. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2296-14-55
Source: PubMed


Antidepressants (ADs) are commonly prescribed in primary care and are mostly indicated for depression. According to the literature, they are now more frequently prescribed for health conditions other than psychiatric ones. Due to their many indications in a wide range of medical fields, assessing the appropriateness of AD prescription seems to be a challenge for GPs. The aim of this study was to review evidence from guidelines for antidepressant prescription for non-psychiatric conditions in Primary Care (PC) settings.

Data were retrieved from French, English and US guideline databases. Guidelines or reviews were eligible if keywords regarding 44 non-psychiatric conditions related to GPs’ prescription of ADs were encountered. After excluding psychiatric and non-primary care conditions, the guidelines were checked for keywords related to AD use. The latest updated version of the guidelines was kept. Recent data was searched in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and in PubMed for updated reviews and randomized control trials (RCTs).

Seventy-eight documents were retrieved and were used to assess the level of evidence of a potential benefit to prescribing an AD. For 15 conditions, there was a consensus that prescribing an AD was beneficial. For 5 others, ADs were seen as potentially beneficial. No proof of benefit was found for 15 conditions and proof of no benefit was found for the last 9. There were higher levels of evidence for pain conditions, (neuropathic pain, diabetic painful neuropathy, central neuropathic pain, migraine, tension-type headaches, and fibromyalgia) incontinence and irritable bowel syndrome. There were difficulties in summarizing the data, due to a lack of information on the level of evidence, and due to variations in efficacy between and among the various classes of ADs.

Prescription of ADs was found to be beneficial for many non-psychiatric health conditions regularly encountered in PC settings. On the whole, the guidelines were heterogeneous, seemingly due to a lack of trials assessing the role of ADs in treatment strategies.

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    • "The GPs decided to prescribe ADs for chronic non-psychiatric conditions such as chronic complaints, pain, or sleep-related problems. Many of these non-psychiatric conditions (pain, migraine, fibromyalgia migraine, and premature ejaculation) met the criteria for scientific evidence for the prescription of ADs [15,25-28]. This level of evidence was lacking for some other conditions that influenced GPs, e.g. "
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