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Differences in prescribing psychotropic drugs for elderly with depression

  • Yu-Chi Huang (a1), Liang-Jen Wang (a2) and Mian-Yoon Chong (a1)



The escalating tendency of elderly population aged 65 and over, which grown up to 9% since 2001 in Taiwan, remarks the important issue of mental health among ageing population. Depression in the elderly is frequently undetected or inadequately treated. This study aimed to investigate the pharmacotherapy of elderly patients with depression by comparing the patterns of prescribing psychotropic drugs (psychotropics) of psychiatrists and non-psychiatrists.


A random sampling of 5% of inpatients from the National Health Insurance (NHI) database in Taiwan from 2001 to 2003 was selected. In all, 1058 (0.9%) inpatients aged 65 and older with a diagnosis of any depressive disorder were included. The psychotropic prescribing pattern and the dosages used were analysed and compared. Physician specialties were based on the record of NHI database. Non-psychiatrists were defined by physicians other than psychiatry.


A total of 88% of elderly depressed inpatients had two or more comorbid physical illnesses. The most commonly prescribed psychotropics were: antidepressants (71.4%), anxiolytics (62.6%) and hypnotics (51.4%). Psychiatrists had a higher rate of prescribing psychotropics, except anxiolytics, than non-psychiatrists. Although selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were commonly prescribed, non-psychiatrists preferred the use of tricyclic antidepressants and moclobemide. Trazodone was the most preferred antidepressant, but was generally used in low dosages.


Psychiatrists generally utilised higher dosages of newer antidepressants than non-psychiatrists. Differences in the prescribing pattern of psychotropics existed between physician specialties. Further investigations are warranted to determine how the selection and dosing of drugs influence the outcome of depression on the elderly.


Corresponding author

Mian-Yoon Chong, Department of Psychiatry, Kaohsiung Chang Gung Memorial Hospital and Chang Gung University College of Medicine, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, 123 Ta-Pei Road, Niao-Sung, Kaohsiung 83342, Taiwan. Tel: +886-7-7317123 ext 8753; Fax: +886-7-7326817; E-mail:


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