In The Netherlands (population 17 million) almost 1 million people take anti-depressant medication to suppress depression, anxiety, aggression, pain or sleep disorders. When it is time to stop the anti-depression medication withdrawal symptoms can occur, such as, anxiety, confusion, lack of sleep and nausea. These symptoms make patients reluctant to stop their medication.
Very little research has been performed to define optimal methods to stop antidepressant medication. In 2004 Leurink, a woodworker from Arnhem, The Netherlands, proposed a medication tapering strip, which was awarded with the ‘Best Idea’ prize of the year, but never used in a clinical study.
Eleven years later P2T proposes to help patients with a new tool: a tapering strip with antidepressants in which each successive tablet has a slightly lower dose. The ‘strip’ looks similar to the card in use for anti-conception medication for women.
P2T will initiate research in collaboration with the family physician of the patient as to the efficacy of such a ‘tapering strip’. If this is indeed an effective way to stop taking medications that might have outlasted their usefulness, follow-up studies will be done for such medications using a similar format. Thus P2T might offer a new methodology to decrease in a safe and objective manner ‘poly-pharmacy’, the chronic use of multiple medications, an all too common unsolved problem in the elderly.
Patients who, during the step-wise reduction of the medication, experience too much withdrawal symptoms will return to use the full dose of the antidepressant.
Patients, who complete the full tapering strip, will return periodically for check-ups for a possible recurrence of depression or anxiety disorder.
Results of this study will provide for the first time:
- Objective information on withdrawal symptoms of patients using the anti-depressant tapering strip.
- The percentage of patients that after the use of the tapering strip will have a recurrence of depression or anxiety disorder.
- Decreasing the use of anti-depressants will lower healthcare costs.
- This P2T study can provide a prototype for tapering of other chronically used medication, which might have outlasted their usefulness.