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Wellmark details antidepressant use


Des Moines has one of the highest levels of antidepressant use in the state, according to a special issue of The Wellmark Report published last week by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

The report is the seventh in a series by Wellmark focusing on prescription drug usage, which is one of the fastest growing components of health-care expenditures.

In the past three years there has been a 26 percent statewide increase in the number of Iowans who have filled at least one prescription for an antidepressant.

The rate of antidepressant use among Wellmark’s Iowa customers is 136 per 1,000 people, compared to the national rate of 107 per 1,000 individuals, according to the report.

In Iowa, Wellmark found the communities of Ames, Des Moines, Grinnell, Winterset and Cedar Rapids had the highest rate of antidepressant use, ranging from 158 to 175 per 1,000.

In 2002, Wellmark members filled more than 520,000 prescriptions for antidepressants, compared to about 271,000 in 1999. The toal cost of antidepressant prescriptions filled for members doubled in that period, from $15.1 million in 1999 to $31.7 million in 2002.

“Despite the number of Iowans seeking treatment for depression, we know that many times depression is underdiagnosed and for that reason undertreated,” said Dr. Dale Andringa, Wellmark’s chief medical officer. “The impact of depression on individuals’ well-being and in the workplace is costly.”

U.S. workers with depressive disorders cost employers $44 billion in lost productivity, compared with $13 billion for those employees without depression, according to a study by AdvancePCS, Wellmark’s pharmacy benefit manager.

For more information about antidepressants and generic drug options, visit mypharmacy@wellmark at www.wellmark.com.   

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