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Could your medications be making you depressed?

When you hear of a drug having side-effects you might think of a physical reaction like a rash or a ..

When you hear of a drug having side-effects you might think of a physical reaction like a rash or a headache.

But according to a new US study, many commonly-prescribed drugs may increase the risk of depression.

The list includes heart medications, birth control pills and some painkillers – things lots of people in the UK are also prescribed.

More than a third of the drugs the 26,000 participants took had depression as a possible side-effect.

What's going on?

The study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked only at people in the US who were 18 or older and taking at least one type of prescription medication between 2005 to 2014.

It found that 37% of these prescription drugs, which also included some painkillers and antacids, had depression listed as one of the potential adverse effects.

Rates of depression were higher among the study participants taking these drugs:

  • 7% among those who took one of the drugs
  • 9% for people on two
  • 15% for people taking three or more

Around 5% of US adults are estimated to suffer from depression.

Lead author Dima Qato, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois, said: "Many may be surprised to learn that their medications, despite having nothing to do with mood or anxiety or any other condition normally associated with depression, can increase their risk of experiencing depressive symptoms and may lead to a depression diagnosis."

However, it's not clear if the drugs are to blame for low mood.

Feeling ill for any reason can make you feel low. And it is possible some of the participants may have already had a history of depression.

What do experts say?

UK experts cautioned that the paper shows an association between taking these drugs and an increased risk of depression but not cause and effect.

Prof David Baldwin, from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: "It is not surprising that using medicines to treat physical illnesses such as heart and lung disease should be associated with depressive symptoms, as these physical illnesses are themselves linked to an increased risk of depression."

The Royal College of GPs also pointed out that not all of the findings will necessarily apply to the UK, as the health system is different in the US.

Nevertheless, its chair, Prof Helen Stokes-Lampard, added that it shows "how vital it is that patients disclose any medication they may be taking that the GP might not be aware of, or to the pharmacist if buying medication over the counter".

What's the risk?

It depends on the medication.

For some drugs, depression can be a common side-effect, such as certain birth control pills. But for others it's much rarer.

Very common side-effects will affect more than one in 10 people, whereas those that are very rare will apply to fewer than one in 10,000.

This information is printed inside packets of medication in the Patient Information Leaflet and is also searchable online.

Prof David Taylor, from the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, also said it was important to consider whether there was a "plausible explanation" for why a drug might cause depression.

For example, with oral contraceptives there is a clear association between hormone levels and mood.

But in others, like heart medication, it is trickier to unpick whether it's the drugs or the condition that might be causing the depression, he says.

"We're not very good at working out what the drugs cause and what just happens in the course of somebody being treated which isn't linked to the drugs, " Prof Taylor said.

What should I do?

If you're taking any of these medications currently and have no signs of depression then you shouldn't worry, Prof Taylor advises.

For those on these drugs who are experiencing depression, he recommends speaking to your GP or specialist doctor to discuss if there might be drugs that don't have the potential side-effects.

If you're thinking about taking some of these drugs, he said it was worth being "somewhat cautious".

"That applies particularly if you're already taking another drug which is linked to depression."

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Burkina Faso: Growing Violence Threatens Health Care

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, t..

Away from the worlds attention, Burkina Faso has been slipping into violence. In less than a year, the number of displaced has increased fivefold, from 50,000 last December, to 270,000 in August. As ever, the most vulnerable suffer most: the very young, and the very old.

When Alidou Sawadogos elderly mother fell ill, he faced a long and dangerous journey to get treatment for her.

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The ICRC has been working to support Burkina Fasos health professionals, with medical kits, and vaccination campaigns. During his visit to the country, ICRC President Peter Maurer expressed his concern at the multiple challenges facing Burkina Fasos people.

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And so the ICRC – jointly with the Burkinabé Red Cross – is also delivering food to the displaced, and helping to improve access to water supplies. All of this, says nurse Jeanette Kientega, is desperately needed by a population uprooted by conflict, and denied access to basic health care.

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World Bank and WHO Statement on Partnership & Deployment of Financing to WHO for Ebola Response in DRC

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the G..

WASHINGTON, August 23, 2019—The World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Government and other key partners, are working in close partnership on the Ebola Crisis Response in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Central to this partnership is the assessment of the financing needs, and deployment of resources, with the goal to put an end to the current deadly outbreak.

The World Bank is today announcing that US$50 million in funding is to be released to WHO for its lifesaving operational work on the frontlines of the outbreak. The WHO is announcing that this US$50 million in funds will close the financing gap for its emergency health response in DRC through to the end of September 2019, and is calling on other partners to mirror this generous support in order to fund the response through to December.

The funding comprises US$30 million from the Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) and US$20 million from the World Bank. The US$50 million in grant funding is part of the larger financial package of approximately US$300 million that the World Bank announced last month to support the fourth Strategic Response Plan for the DRC Ebola outbreak.

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“The World Bank is working closely with WHO, the Government of DRC, and all partners to do everything we can to put an end to the latest Ebola outbreak,” said Annette Dixon, Vice President, Human Development at the World Bank. “The partnership between our organizations and the Government is critical for responding to the emergency as well as rebuilding systems for delivery of basic services and to restoring the trust of communities.”

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Borno State launches first Malaria Operational Plan, reawakens fight against malaria

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Maiduguri, 13 August 2019 – Following recommendations from malaria interventions in Borno State Nigeria, the Malaria Annual Operational Plan (MAOP) was developed and launched on 08 August 2019 with technical support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners. Aligned to the National Malaria Strategic Plan (2014 -2020), MAOP was developed through a broad-based stakeholders workshop involving malaria stakeholders, reviewed on different thematic areas and endorsed by the Commissioner for Health and Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Health.

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The MAOP will further ensure that at least 50% of the population practice appropriate malaria prevention and management by 2020, ensuring timely availability of appropriate anti-malarial medicines and commodities required for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria in Borno State by 2020.

In addition, it seeks to ensure that all health facilities report on key malaria indicators routinely by 2020 and finally strengthen governance and coordination of all stakeholders for effective program implementation towards an A rating by 2020 on a standardized scorecard. These strategic objectives have specific targets and the MAOP takes into account the humanitarian response.

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Despite recent improvements, insecurity remains a challenge limiting access to the functional health facilities. Easily preventable and treatable diseases such as malaria, acute respiratory infection and diarrheal diseases account for the greatest proportion of morbidity and mortality among the vulnerable population. Furthermore, Malaria is endemic in North East Nigeria and the transmission is perennial with a marked seasonal peak from July to November every year. (more…)

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