European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology

, Volume 60, Issue 9, pp 629–634 | Cite as

Are we going to increase the use of antidepressants up to that of benzodiazepines?

  • Arcangelo Ciuna
  • Margherita Andretta
  • Letizia Corbari
  • Deborah Levi
  • Mersia Mirandola
  • Adriano Sorio
  • Corrado Barbui
Pharmacoepidemiology and Prescription



The present study compared recent trends in benzodiazepine and antidepressant consumption in Italy and projected their global sales in the future. We investigated whether the increasing use of antidepressants is associated with a progressive reduction in benzodiazepine use.


Data concerning actual quantities of benzodiazepines and antidepressants dispensed in Italy from 1995 to June 2003 were obtained from IMS Health. For each agent, the number of defined daily doses (DDDs) per 1000 inhabitants per day and the annual expenditure in Euros was calculated.


During the 9-year period, benzodiazepine consumption remained substantially stable, accounting for 50 DDDs/1000 per day in 2003. In the same period, antidepressant consumption dramatically rose, from 9 DDDs/1000 per day in 1995 to 26 DDDs/1000 per day in 2003, an increase of nearly three times. While the use of tricyclic antidepressants declined by one-third and that of other older agents remained substantially stable, the use of selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors and newer agents (venlafaxine, mirtazapine, reboxetine) increased by 623%. Global consumption of antidepressants was projected to increase still further, and, in 2007, the total sales of antidepressants were projected to be similar to the total sales of benzodiazepines. The value of benzodiazepine sales increased from 322 million to 565 million Euros, an increase of 43%; similarly, the value of antidepressant sales increased from 186 million to 569 million Euros, an increase of 67%.


In Italy, the consumption of benzodiazepines was not affected by the increased prescribing of selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors and newer antidepressants.


Paroxetine Eating Disorder Venlafaxine Mirtazapine Total Sale 
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The authors have never received financial support from drug companies and have never done consultancy for pharmaceutical companies. This work received no funding. Arcangelo Ciuna suddenly died during the preparation of this manuscript, which is dedicated to his memory.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arcangelo Ciuna
    • 1
    • 2
  • Margherita Andretta
    • 1
  • Letizia Corbari
    • 1
  • Deborah Levi
    • 2
  • Mersia Mirandola
    • 1
  • Adriano Sorio
    • 1
  • Corrado Barbui
    • 2
  1. 1.Servizio Farmaceutico ULSS 20VeronaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Medicine and Public Health, Section of PsychiatryUniversity of VeronaVeronaItaly

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