Annual statistics for ‘Medicines used in Mental Health – England’ have been released today by NHS Business Services Authority.

Quarterly Summary Statistics are also now available, covering January to March 2021.

Five groups of drugs are analysed in the report including antidepressants; hypnotics and anxiolytics; antipsychotics; central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and ADHD drugs; and drugs for dementia.

In the period since the implementation of lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, between March 2020 and March 2021:

  • There were 803,000 more antidepressant prescription items issued than expected based on historical trends. However, this was not a statistically significant increase for the period; (meaning although usage increased, it was already on an upwards trend before the pandemic)
  • There were 363,000 fewer drugs for dementia prescription items issued than expected based on historical trends. This was a statistically significant decrease for the period; (meaning usage decreased more than expected based on pre-pandemic trends).

Key findings:

  • There were 79.4 million antidepressant drug items prescribed to 7.87 million identified patients in 2020/21. The number of antidepressant items issued and the number of patients receiving antidepressant drugs increased for the fifth consecutive year. However, the rates of increase between 2019/20 and 2020/21 were less than in previous years.
  • In 2020/21, over 4 million drugs for dementia items were prescribed to 275,000 patients. This was a decrease from 2019/20 following 4 consecutive years of increases in the number of items prescribed and the number of identified patients.
  • Of the 5 drug groups analysed, 4 had a larger number of identified patients that were female. The exception was central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and drugs used for ADHD, which had almost three times as many men receiving prescriptions than women.
  • All 5 drug groups were prescribed more often to patients living in more deprived areas of England. The largest difference was for drugs used in psychoses and related disorders, which saw 163% more patients receiving prescribing from practices in the most deprived areas of the country compared to the least deprived.
  • In 2020/21, the most common age group to receive prescribing for 3 of the 5 drug groups was 50 to 54. The exceptions to this were central nervous system (CNS) stimulants and drugs used for ADHD and drugs for dementia. The most popular age group for CNS stimulants and drugs used for ADHD was 10 to 14, while the most popular age group for drugs for dementia was 80 to 84.

Key findings from the quarterly summary (between January to March 2021):

  • There were 20.2 million antidepressant drugs prescribed, a 1% decrease from 20.5 million items in the previous quarter, and a 3% increase from 19.6 million items for same quarter in 2019/20
  • Drugs for dementia continued to show a downward trend with 982,000 items prescribed, a 4% decrease from 1.02 million items in the previous quarter, and a 6% decrease from 1.05 million items in the same quarter in 2019/20.

To see the statistical reports in full follow the links below:

NHSBSA applies the UK Statistics Authority’s Code of Practice for Statistics when producing our official statistics. Further information can be found in our compliance statement. The Code of Practice for Statistics sets the standards that producers of official statistics should commit to.

Contact Information

Sahdia Hassen

Senior Media and Campaigns Officer

NHS Business Services Authority

Notes to editors

For more NHSBSA Statistical Collections go to:

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