Use of antidepressants increases among all age groups

The use of antidepressants in Belgium has increased by about 8 per cent since 2019, according to analysis by the umbrella organisation of independent health insurance funds of their 2.3 million members. The funds are calling on the incoming governments to pay greater attention to mental healthcare.

The use of antidepressants rose by 10 per cent in Flanders, 9 per cent in Brussels and 7 per cent in Wallonia between 2019 and 2023. At ​ more than 80 daily doses per 1,000 inhabitants, Belgium is about 10 per cent above the European average.

Currently, 13 in 100 women take antidepressants, and seven in 100 men. One in four people aged over 80 takes antidepressants. All age groups have seen a rise in usage, with the greatest increase among 12- to 24-year-olds.

The funds advocate earlier prevention, increasing education to help prevent, recognise and manage the symptoms of mental health problems, and expansion of psychological services in homes for the elderly, where use of antidepressants remains very high, indicating that care is inadequate or inappropriate. 

Meanwhile, Danish pharmaceutical company Lundbeck will continue to supply the antidepressants Redomex and Nortrilen, two products that the company had announced it no longer wished to sell on the Belgian market, Public Health minister Frank Vandenbroucke ​ confirmed on Monday.

Lundbeck’s announcement that it would stop selling the products in Belgium for reasons of profitability had caused concern among psychiatrists. Between 300,000 and 400,000 patients use the products in Belgium every year. 

Vandenbroucke raised the possibility of sanctioning the company, claiming that by suddenly stopping its supply, Lundbeck was failing to meet certain legal obligations. The company will now continue to supply the drugs, Vandenbroucke’s office said. It did not say whether the company would fulfil its legal obligations in this way, but the firm was “open to consultation”. 



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