After family physicians and other primary care medical doctors gave patients who were not depressed a common, brief depression questionnaire to complete, the physicians then diagnosed 20% of them with depression and over half were given antidepressants, according to a study in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
The exploratory study was led by the University of California – Davis Health System, and included 595 patients of primary care offices affiliated with a variety of major California care providers.
Patients were selected for the study specifically on the basis of the fact that they’d been identified as being at relatively low risk for depression. The researchers then tracked how many of the patients were asked by their physicians to complete one of two depression questionnaires commonly used in primary care (the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 and PHQ-2), and how many got diagnosed with depression.
“Of the 545 patients who did not complete brief depression questionnaires during their doctors’ office visits, 10.5 percent were diagnosed with depression and 3.8 percent were prescribed antidepressants. Of the 50 patients who completed brief depression questionnaires during their doctors’ office visits, 20 percent were diagnosed with depression and 12 percent were prescribed antidepressants,” stated a UC Davis press release about the study. “[Lead author Anthony Jerant] said the study highlights the need for research to determine the best ways to apply brief depression questionnaires in daily practice, as use of the screeners tripled the likelihood that patients in the study who were not apt to be depressed would receive depression treatment.”
“It is important to treat depression, but equally important to make sure those who get treatment actually need it,” Jerant said in the press release. “We need to give providers good guidance on how to use brief symptom measures in evaluating patients and making treatment decisions.”
Brief depression questionnaires could lead to unnecessary antidepressant prescriptions (UC Davis Press Release on ScienceDaily, September 29, 2014)
(Full Text) Potential Antidepressant Overtreatment Associated with Office Use of Brief Depression Symptom Measures. (Jerant, A. et al. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. September-October 2014. DOI: 10.3122/jabfm.2014.05.140038)