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BACKGROUND: Debate continues over the relative merits of tricyclics and selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as first line antidepressant treatment for depression. SSRIs are safer in overdose but more expensive than tricyclics. This report compared the hospital costs of cases of overdose with both groups of drug. METHODS: Records of all persons aged over thirteen years presenting to a general hospital in one year were analysed for demographic information and details of their attendance. RESULTS: There were 1165 episodes of self-poisoning, 151 involving tricyclics as the sole antidepressant and 69 SSRIs as the sole antidepressant. Those taking SSRIs had a shorter (1.96 vs. 2.59 days) and less expensive ( pound330 vs. pound567) stay. A large proportion of this difference in cost was due to a small number of admissions to the Intensive Care Unit. LIMITATIONS: This study used only hospital costs, so excluding costs associated with primary care. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: If there were similar cost differences countrywide, the difference in hospital costs of self poisoning with SSRIs and tricyclics would represent an additional pound3.87 million per year due to self poisoning with tricyclics across the whole of England and Wales. This is a small proportion of the estimated pound100 million cost of switching to first-line prescribing of SSRIs for depression.

Original publication




Journal article


J Affect Disord

Publication Date





97 - 100


Adolescent, Adult, Antidepressive Agents, Tricyclic, Depression, Drug Overdose, Female, Hospital Costs, Humans, Intensive Care Units, Length of Stay, Male, Retrospective Studies, Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors, United Kingdom