In Australia, almost 4,000 Australian children under the age of 10 received a prescription for antidepressant drugs in the last year, despite the fact that Australia has not approved the use of antidepressants in children or adolescents.
Of these, 553 of the children were under the age of five and 48 were babies. "At first pass, it is beyond comprehension that more than 500 Australian children – aged one to five years – have received an antidepressant drug," said Gordon Parker, executive director of the Black Dog Institute, a non-profit devoted to education about depression and bipolar disorder. He raised concerns about side effects and efficacy, and suggested having physicians justify the prescriptions.
The data came from the Pharmaceutical Benefits Schedule, which provides information on patients who receive subsidized medications. In fact, physicians prescribe most antidepressant medications privately.
Most of the drugs are not for children or adolescents less than the age of 18 years and it even says so on the label. However, some physicians ignore the label and prescribe the medications freely, either for intended or off-label uses. For example, physicians wrote 3,347 prescriptions for Wyeth's Effexor last year, which clearly says it is not for anyone less than 18 years of age. Eight of the prescription recipients were less than two years old.