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  • 1 November 2019 to 31 July 2020
  • Project No: 422
  • Funding round: FR17

Antidepressant prescribing has risen dramatically over the past decade, mainly because patients are being prescribed these drugs for a longer period. Many patients are staying on these drugs for more than two years. This may be because of concerns relating to relapse and withdrawal symptoms. People are taking these drugs for longer and it is important to find out whether there are any negative health effects associated with this so that we can advise doctors and patients about long-term health risks. Some of the common symptoms reported by patients suggest that these drugs may affect the cardiovascular system, liver and brain. Recently, two large studies, using data gathered from GP practices (covering 11 to 12 million patients) have shown that antidepressants increase the risk of epilepsy, fractures and dementia. Many patients who start antidepressants are already at risk of developing some of these conditions. We want to find out the extent to which taking an antidepressant adds to this risk. We can do this by looking at patient risk factors for a particular condition at the start of the study and estimate how much additional effect the antidepressant is having over time. Unfortunately, previous studies have been unable to take these risk factors into account because this information is not measured and recorded for everyone in primary care. We plan to use data collected by UK Biobank, a large study that recruited just over 500,000 participants from across the UK between 2006 to 2010. UK Biobank is an ideal resource to explore the long-term effects of antidepressants because it has extensive information on a range of risk factors for disease and it is also linked to GP and hospital records allowing us to look at the effects of antidepressants on a wide range of conditions and diseases.

Amount awarded: £46 666

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Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.

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