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by: By Julie-Anne Davies
July 23, 2008 12:00
SEVERAL hundred thousand scripts for anti-depressants such as Zoloft and Prozac were last year prescribed to children and subsidized through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, despite the Federal Government’s own drug watchdog not recommending them for use by anyone under the age of 24.
The Department of Health and Ageing revelation that 279,460 scripts were provided against PBS advice, likely underestimates anti-depressant use by young Australians, as it fails to take into account private prescriptions written for off-label use.
An investigation by The Australian has also found discrepancies in the information given to patients in Australia and the US about the potential dangers of the drugs.
Nicola Mulcahy, a Melbourne mother who claims Zoloft made her 16-year-old daughter suicidal, has escalated her campaign against the prescription of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for young people, lodging a $100,000 damages claim against her daughter’s doctor in the Magistrate’s Court.
In her statement of claim, Ms Mulcahy alleges that Vanessa Haller, of the Peninsula Women’s Health Group, misrepresented and falsely promoted Zoloft as a safe, effective and approved drug for children.
Ms Mulcahy also claims she did not give informed consent because the serious side effects associated with the drug were not explained. Dr Haller’s lawyer was unavailable to comment on the case.