Lebanon, NH—Chances are that many of the patients filling prescriptions for depression medications don’t have all of the information they need—or want—about the drugs.

That’s according to a report published recently in BMJ Open. The study team, led by researchers from The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, found a significant gap between the priorities of patients and the clinicians prescribing the drugs to them.

“The good news is that both patients and clinicians who treat depression consider whether a treatment will work to be the most important priority,” said lead author Paul Barr, MSc, PhD. “However, while consumers place a high priority on cost and insurance information, clinicians do not always prioritize this as highly.”

For the U.S.-based study, researchers surveyed nearly 1,000 patients who were currently undergoing or had previously sought treatment for depression, as well as 250 clinicians—therapists, psychiatrists, and primary care physicians with an average of 15 years of professional experience—who had recently treated patients for depression.

Results indicate that, while patients wanted to know if a treatment would work, they also were concerned about potential side effects, whether a treatment was covered by insurance, how long before it took effect, and how much it would cost.

For clinicians, information priorities about a potential treatment from their professional perspective and their beliefs about what patients considered important were fairly far afield from that.

“What we found is although many health care providers realize that their patients want to know how much a particular treatment costs and if insurance will cover it, they don’t seem to cover these topics with their patients,” Barr said in a Dartmouth press release. He suggested that reasons for the lack of communication on these topics might include time limitations during a clinical visit, the difficulties of identifying patient-specific costs, and a bias that medical decisions should be based exclusively on needs, not costs.

Yet, Barr pointed out, “the cost of treatment has a significant impact on a patient’s financial stability, which can impact their well-being and whether they actually begin a treatment, especially if they cannot afford it.”

Only 18% of consumers reported high levels of shared decision-making, with the best results occurring when the prescriber was a female psychiatrist, according to the results.

Background information in the articles notes that more than 15 million American adults seek treatment for depression each year.

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