Psychiatrists Prescribing More Drugs Than Therapy for Patients

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Byline: John Taddei Bloomberg News

Psychiatrists in the U.S. increasingly provide patients with drugs rather than psychotherapy as health insurance plans cut costs, researchers found, and the head of an American Psychiatric Association panel said patients may be "suffering."

A study of more than 14,000 psychiatry sessions showed the percentage of visits involving psychotherapy fell to 28.9 percent in 2005 from 44.4 percent in 1996, said researchers at Beth Israel Medical Center and Columbia University in New York.

The use of medication rose to 83.8 percent of cases from 68.6 percent, according to the study, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

While lead author Ramin Mojtabai said there isnt any evidence the development has hurt patients, Eric Plakun, chairman of an American Psychiatric Association committee, said a shift in the balance between medication and psychotherapy may harm people.

"Both psychotherapy and psychopharmacology work synergistically," said Plakun, the head of the Arlington, Virginia-based associations Committee on Psychotherapy by Psychiatrists.

"If its true that there is a diminution of psychotherapy to patients, then I think its our patients that are suffering."

The rise of managed care has limited the number of visits a patient can make to a psychiatrist, leading to an increased focus on medication, said Plakun, who practices in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and wasnt involved in the study. …