During a downturn, we tend to seek the "bright spots" -- sectors or products that are doing well when all the rest are struggling. For example, there were plenty of reports over the past year about retail items -- lipstick, chocolate, and macaroni and cheese -- that were bucking downward trends and selling well during the slump. While these stories were cautiously upbeat, news of an uptick in antidepressant sales despite -- or perhaps because of -- the recession was just plain depressing.
Helplessness, pessimism and persistent sadness -- the main symptoms of depression -- didn't seem to abate as the economy crumbled. About 164 million antidepressant prescriptions were written in 2008, 4 million more than in 2007, according to IMS Health, a health-care information and consulting company.
Antidepressants were the third most prescribed type of drug in 2008, hitting $9.6 billion in sales, up from $9.4 billion the year before. Last month, Eli Lilly reported that second-quarter sales for Cymbalta -- which is on the verge of surpassing Effexor as the nation's best-selling antidepressant -- increased 14 percent over the past year. Our national reliance on these drugs is a stubborn trend. A study published in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry found that from 1996 to 2005, antidepressant use in the United States doubled.
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