How do general practitioners in Thailand diagnose and treat patients presenting with anxiety and depression?

Manote Lotrakul, Ratana Saipanish
Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2009, 63 (1): 37-42

AIMS: To examine general practitioners' (GPs') diagnosis of a case vignette presenting both anxiety and depression symptoms, and to understand their treatment preferences for the case.

METHODS: A total of 1193 copies of a questionnaire were sent to doctors in primary care settings throughout Thailand. The questionnaire inquired about GPs' demographic information and training background, as well as common psychiatric diagnoses and drug prescriptions to patients in their practise. A case vignette of a patient presenting both anxiety and depression symptoms was then given, and GPs were asked to describe their diagnosis and treatment preferences. For comparison, postal questionnaires of the same case vignette were also sent to 40 psychiatrists practising in general hospitals, asking their opinion about the diagnosis and treatment preferences.

RESULTS: A total of 434 questionnaires (36.4%) were returned. GPs reported that 37.7% of their patients suffered from anxiety disorders while 28.4% suffered from depressive disorders. For the patient in the case vignette, GPs made a diagnosis of anxiety disorders (53.5%) more often than depressive disorders (31.9%), whereas the psychiatrists at the general hospitals made a diagnosis of depressive disorders (54%) more often than anxiety disorders (9.1%). One-third of the GPs prescribed only anxiolytics, while 15.4% prescribed only antidepressants. The most commonly prescribed antidepressant by GPs was amitriptyline, which 93% of GPs used at a dosage below 50 mg/day. Only 5.8% of them prescribed fluoxetine as antidepressant. The most frequently prescribed anxiolytic drug was diazepam (65.4%). The most common combination of drugs prescribed was amitriptyline and diazepam (38.7%).

CONCLUSION: Compared to psychiatrists, GPs were more likely to diagnose anxiety than depression in patients with the same set of symptoms. They also preferred to use amitriptyline to treat depression, and prescribed the drug at a low dose. GPs in Thailand should be encouraged to prescribe fluoxetine for treatment of depression because it is safer and more convenient to use than tricyclic antidepressants.


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