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Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2006 Sep;21(5):281-4.

Association between antidepressant prescribing and suicide in Israel.

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Abarbanel Mental Health Center, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel.


The effects of antidepressants on suicide are controversial; on the one hand they decrease the incidence of death by suicide, as reflected in epidemiological studies, and on the other hand, there are claims that they increase the risk of impulsivity and suicide. In 1998, primary care physicians in Israel were not allowed to prescribe selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and in 1999 this prohibition was lifted. We thus evaluated the association between patterns of antidepressant prescribing and the rate of death by suicide in Israel in 1998 compared with that in 2002. Data regarding deaths by suicide were obtained from the Central Bureau of Statistics. Annual rates of antidepressant prescribing were computed from the Intercontinental Marketing Services database. The Intercontinental Marketing Services data covers three out of the four Health Maintenance Organizations in Israel, encompassing 46% of all citizens. Prescribing of all antidepressants increased 2.6-fold between 1998 and 2002. This increase was significantly more pronounced for the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. A shift in prescription practices was noted, with a 1.37-fold increase in prescribing by primary care physicians. While the concomitant decrease in overall national rates of completed suicide did not reach significance (17-14 per 100,000), the incidence decreased significantly in men aged 55-74 years (33-22 per 100,000; P=0.029). An overall reduction in suicides, which was significant only in elderly men, was noted in association with increased rates of antidepressant prescription. This study is limited in scope but adds a unique viewpoint related to the possible positive effect of increased antidepressant prescribing in primary care on suicide.

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