Prescribing patterns of medicine classified as “anti-depressants" in South African children and adolescents

  • J Burger
  • E van der Westhuizen
  • M Lubbe
  • JHP Serfontein
Keywords: African private health care sector, retrospective drug utilisation, prescribing patterns, prescribed daily dosages


The main objective of this study was to characterise prescribing patterns of medicine classifi ed as 'antidepressants' (hereafter simply referred to as antidepressants) in children and adolescents in the private health care sector of South Africa. A retrospective drug utilisation design was used
to identify patients aged 19 years and younger from a South African pharmaceutical benefit management company’s database, whom were issued at least one antidepressant between 1 January 2006 and 31 December 2006. Prescribed daily dosages (PDDs) were calculated using the Statistical Analysis System® program. A total of 1 013 patients received a mean number of 2.88 (SD 3.04) prescriptions per patient. Females received more prescriptions than their male counterparts, with the highest prevalence in the 15 ≤ 19 years age group. The pharmacological groups most prescribed were the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (43.0%) and the tricyclics (42.7%), with imipramine (22.04%) and amitriptyline (19%) as the most commonly prescribed drugs. Approximately 30%
(n = 2 300) of all antidepressants in the study population were prescribed off-label. Amitriptyline and clomipramine were prescribed at daily dosages higher than recommended in children and adolescents aged 9 ≤ 15 years. Lithium, trimipramine, trazodone and sulpiride were prescribed
at sub-therapeutic dosages in adolescents. This study provided insight in the prescribing patterns of medicine classifi ed as antidepressants in South African children and adolescents. These drugs, however, have many indications. Further research is needed to determine reasons why specifi c
drugs are prescribed in this population.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848