There was an 11% increase in the number of people who made claims for antidepressants between January and June 2020, compared to the same period last year, according to research by Express Scripts Canada (ESC).

Overall Express Scripts Canada's claim volumes increased by 20% in the pre-isolation period, indicating that patients may have been filling medications despite warnings that stockpiling might lead to drug shortages, says ESC. “This analysis suggests that Canadians were focused on the pandemic and fearful that they would run out of their medications which is further evidence of the serious impact COVID-19 is having on Canadians' mental health,” said ESC in a July 9 statement.

ESC says its data also suggests that there was an increase of new users for medications used to treat depression and these claims continue to climb.

"The pandemic has taken a psychological toll on Canadians across the country," says Dr. Dorian Lo, President, Express Scripts Canada. "Our research shows that Canadians are increasingly turning to mental health medications to find some relief."

Dr. Lo the rising use of medications used to treat depression indicates the need for heightened awareness of employee well-being. “Mental health conditions generally require longer-term treatment so these claims will persist and employers will need to consider holistic approaches to care. Employers need concrete plans to assist employees with mental health concerns. As well, employers must ensure employees who are experiencing mental health conditions have access to doctors, pharmacists, therapists and prescription medications."