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Publication - Dr Kyla Thomas

    Physicians' prescribing preferences were a potential instrument for patients' actual prescriptions of antidepressants


    Davies, NM, Gunnell, D, Thomas, KH, Metcalfe, C, Windmeijer, F & Martin, RM, 2013, ‘Physicians' prescribing preferences were a potential instrument for patients' actual prescriptions of antidepressants’. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, vol 66., pp. 1386-1396



    To investigate whether physicians' prescribing preferences were valid instrumental variables for the antidepressant prescriptions they issued to their patients.

    Study Design and Setting

    We investigated whether physicians' previous prescriptions of (1) tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) vs. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and (2) paroxetine vs. other SSRIs were valid instruments. We investigated whether the instrumental variable assumptions are likely to hold and whether TCAs (vs. SSRIs) were associated with hospital admission for self-harm or death by suicide using both conventional and instrumental variable regressions. The setting for the study was general practices in the United Kingdom.


    Prior prescriptions were strongly associated with actual prescriptions: physicians who previously prescribed TCAs were 14.9 percentage points (95% confidence interval [CI], 14.4, 15.4) more likely to prescribe TCAs, and those who previously prescribed paroxetine were 27.7 percentage points (95% CI, 26.7, 28.8) more likely to prescribe paroxetine, to their next patient. Physicians' previous prescriptions were less strongly associated with patients' baseline characteristics than actual prescriptions. We found no evidence that the estimated association of TCAs with self-harm/suicide using instrumental variable regression differed from conventional regression estimates (P-value = 0.45).


    The main instrumental variable assumptions held, suggesting that physicians' prescribing preferences are valid instruments for evaluating the short-term effects of antidepressants.

    Full details in the University publications repository