The relationship between sales of SSRI, TCA and suicide rates in the Nordic countries

Zahl, Per-Henrik; De Leo, Diego; Ekeberg, Øivind; Hjelmeland, Heidi; Dieserud, Gudrun
January 2010
BMC Psychiatry;2010, Vol. 10, p62
Academic Journal
Background: In the period 1990-2006, strong and almost equivalent increases in sales figures of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were observed in all Nordic countries. The sales figures of tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) dropped in Norway and Sweden in the nineties. After 2000, sales figures of TCAs have been almost constant in all Nordic countries. The potentially toxic effect of TCAs in overdose was an important reason for replacing TCAs with SSRIs when treating depression. We studied whether the rapid increase in sales of SSRIs and the corresponding decline in TCAs in the period 1990-98 were associated with a decline in suicide rates. Methods: Aggregated suicide rates for the period 1975-2006 in four Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) were obtained from the national causes-of-death registries. The sales figures of antidepressants were provided from the wholesale registers in each of the Nordic countries. Data were analysed using Fisher's exact test and Pearson's correlation coefficient. Results: There was no statistical association (P = 1.0) between the increase of sales figures of SSRIs and the decline in suicide rates. There was no statistical association (P = 1.0) between the decrease in the sale figures of TCAs and change in suicide rates either. Conclusions: We found no evidence for the rapid increase in use of SSRIs and the corresponding decline in sales of TCAs being associated with a decline in the suicide rates in the Nordic countries in the period 1990-98. We did not find any inverse relationship between the increase in sales of SSRIs and declining suicide rates in four Nordic countries.


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