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Epidemiology of pharmaceutically treated depression and treatment resistant depression in South Korea

Namwoo Kim, Sung Joon Cho, Hye-Young Kim, Se Hyun Kim, Hyun Jeong Lee, C. Hyung Keun Park, Sang Jin Rhee, Daewook Kim, Sciprofile linkBo Ram Yang, So-Hyun Choi, GumJee Choi, Minjung Koh, Yong Min Ahn
Published: 23 August 2019
PLOS ONE , Volume 14; doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0221552

Abstract: The epidemiology of pharmaceutically treated depression (PTD) and treatment resistant depression (TRD) is largely unknown in South Korea. The aim of this study was to develop a greater understanding of the characteristics of PTD and TRD in nearly the entire adult population in South Korea using the Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA). Diagnostic codes and prescription data for South Korean adults were extracted from the HIRA. Subjects were included in the PTD cohort if they received at least one prescription for antidepressants and were diagnosed with depression. TRD was defined as PTD having two or more regimen failures of antidepressants or antipsychotics. In 2012, there were 41,256,396 adults in South Korea with 834,694 meeting the criteria for PTD (2.0%). Among subjects with PTD, 57% stopped treatment in less than 28 days of antidepressant supply. Tricyclic and tetracyclic antidepressants were the most frequently used antidepressants as a first-line regimen for PTD (44.3% of PTD) followed by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (32.1% of PTD). Results also indicated that 34,812 subjects developed TRD (4.2% of PTD). Median PTD and TRD durations were 28 and 623 days respectively. Proportions of psychiatric and non-psychiatric comorbidities were higher in TRD cases than in PTD cases that were not treatment resistant. Despite a small proportion of patients with TRD, the prolonged duration of illness and higher comorbidity implies the need for better treatment.
Keywords: depression / epidemiology / Diagnostic medicine / drug therapy / antipsychotics / antidepressants / South Korea / reuptake inhibitors

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