The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a spike in the use of prescription medication for mental-health concerns, according to an analysis by Express Scripts Canada.

The analysis found an 11 per cent increase in plan members making claims for antidepressants between January and June 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. As well, 61 per cent of 2019’s total claims volume had already been reached by June 30, 2020.

The health benefits manager said its data indicates an increase of new users for medications that treat depressions and these claims continue to climb. “The pandemic has taken a psychological toll on Canadians across the country,” said Dorian Lo, president of Express Scripts Canada, in a press release. “Our research shows that Canadians are increasingly turning to mental-health medications to find some relief.”

Read: Mental-health conditions, specialty meds driving drug plan cost increases in 2019: report

Medications for asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease saw the largest change in claims volume during the pandemic, noted the analysis, while claims for drugs used to prevent infections saw a steep decline, given that places where people typically transmit infections — workplaces, schools, daycares and gyms — were broadly closed and Canadians were increasingly conscious about washing their hands and not touching their faces.

As well, it found claim volumes increased by 20 per cent in the period before Canadians began isolating, “indicating that patients may have been filling medications despite warnings that stockpiling might lead to drug shortages,” noted the release. “This analysis suggests that Canadians were focused on the pandemic and fearful that they would run out of their medications, which is further evidence of the serious impact COVID-19 is having on Canadians’ mental health.”

Read: Global sales of mental-health drugs could hit US$40B by 2025 due to coronavirus

 

Copyright © 2020 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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