Poor guideline adherence in the initiation of antidepressant treatment in children and adolescents in the Netherlands: choice of antidepressant and dose

Ymkje Anna de Vries*, Peter de Jonge, Luuk Kalverdijk, Jens H. J. Bos, Catharina C. M. Schuiling-Veninga, Eelko Hak

*Corresponding author for this work

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The Dutch guideline for the treatment of depression in young people recommends initiating antidepressant treatment with fluoxetine, as the evidence for its efficacy is strongest and the risk of suicidality may be lower than with other antidepressants. Furthermore, low starting doses are recommended. We aimed to determine whether antidepressant prescriptions are in accord with guidelines. A cohort of young people aged between 6 and 17 at the time of antidepressant initiation was selected from IABD, a Dutch pharmacy prescription database. The percentage of prescriptions for each antidepressant was determined. Starting and maintenance doses were determined and compared with recommendations for citalopram, fluoxetine, fluvoxamine, and sertraline. During the study period, 2942 patients initiated antidepressant treatment. The proportion of these young people who were prescribed fluoxetine increased from 10.1 % in 1994-2003 to 19.7 % in 2010-2014. However, the most commonly prescribed antidepressants were paroxetine in 1994-2003 and citalopram in 2004-2014. The median starting and maintenance doses were aecurrency sign0.5 DDD/day for tricyclic antidepressants and 0.5-1 DDD/day for SSRIs and other antidepressants. Starting doses were guideline-concordant 58 % of the time for children, 31 % for preteens, and 16 % for teens. Sixty percent of teens were prescribed an adult starting dose. In conclusion, guideline adherence was poor. Physicians preferred citalopram over fluoxetine, in contrast to the recommendations. Furthermore, although children were prescribed a low starting dose relatively frequently, teens were often prescribed an adult starting dose. These results suggest that dedicated effort may be necessary to improve guideline adherence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1161-1170
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2016


  • Antidepressants
  • Guidelines
  • Children and adolescents
  • Dosing
  • Prescription trends
  • RISK
  • CARE

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