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ORIGINAL ARTICLE Table of Contents  
Ahead of print publication
An observational study on drug prescribing pattern of psychotropic medication in psychiatry outpatient department of a medical college in Eastern India

1 Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, ESI-PGIMSR, ESIC Medical College and ESIC Hospital and ODC (EZ), Kolkata, West Bengal, India
2 Senior Resident, Department of Psychiatry, ESI-PGIMSR, ESIC Medical College and ESIC Hospital and ODC (EZ), Kolkata, West Bengal, India
3 Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, ESI-PGIMSR, ESIC Medical College and ESIC Hospital and ODC (EZ), Kolkata, West Bengal, India

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Date of Submission18-Aug-2022
Date of Acceptance12-Oct-2022
Date of Web Publication28-Feb-2023


Introduction: There are a few studies on the psychotropic prescription pattern in Eastern India, particularly in West Bengal, with limited statistics and focus, as well as there is no study conducted in health facilities particularly catering to the labor class population. To improve the mental health-care delivery in laborers and their dependents through policy-making, information is required regarding psychotropic prescription patterns in laborers suffering from mental disorders.
Materials and Methods: A hospital-based, cross-sectional study was conducted for 6 months. A total of 3000 patients were randomly selected from those who consented to utilize their information for study purposes. DSM-5 was used for psychiatric diagnosis. Descriptive statistic was used to describe drug use pattern. The World Health Organization-drug use indicators were used for analyzing prescriptions.
Results: Among 3000 participants, 1114 (37.1%) and 537 (17.9%) were suffering from somatic symptom disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, respectively. Antidepressants and benzodiazepines (BZDs) with Z-drugs together form the major bulk of prescriptions. Amitriptyline, olanzapine, and alprazolam were the most commonly prescribed antidepressants, antipsychotics, and BZDs, respectively.
Conclusion: Neurotic and anxiety disorders are major psychiatric morbidity among the labor class population. Antidepressants like amitriptyline and BZDs like alprazolam can meet the majority of mental health needs of laborers. Therefore, policy and provision are required for an adequate availability of these drugs in catering centers.

Keywords: Antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, mental disorders, polypharmacy

How to cite this URL:
Bandyopadhyay U, Bhattacharjee D, Chakraborty A. An observational study on drug prescribing pattern of psychotropic medication in psychiatry outpatient department of a medical college in Eastern India. Arch Ment Health [Epub ahead of print] [cited 2023 Mar 24]. Available from: https://www.amhonline.org/preprintarticle.asp?id=370755

  Introduction Top

Laborers have more risk of mental health problems, but lower income compared to white-collar professionals.[1] Spending on mental disorders takes around 12% of per capita income,[2] which may be cumbersome for them. Irrational prescription is one of the causes of an increase in treatment costs.[3] Prescription pattern monitoring studies support a better service delivery through the rational use of medicine.[4] There are a very few studies in West Bengal on psychotropic prescription patterns, limited by their scope and statistics.[5],[6] There is also no study conducted focusing on laborers. To improve the mental health care delivery in laborers and their dependents through policy-making, information is required regarding psychotropic prescription patterns in laborers suffering from mental disorders. This study is intended to answer all these data gaps.

Aims and objective

Primary objective

The primary objective was to describe the prescription pattern in the psychiatry outpatient department (OPD).

Secondary objective

The secondary objective was to analyze the prescribing pattern of psychotropic medications.

  Materials and Methods Top

The study was a cross-sectional, hospital-based observational study with data collected over 6 months in the psychiatry OPD of our institute's catering health services to the laborers and their families. Ethical approval was obtained from the Institutional Ethics Committee to conduct this study. Written informed consent was obtained from the participants, and confidentiality of the participant's data was maintained. Studies on prescription patterns require a minimum of 600 sample size as per recommendation,[7] but similar studies recruited 294–3770 samples;[5],[6],[7] hence, we took 3000 prescriptions, randomly selected using RANDBETWEEN function of Microsoft Office Excel among consented participants of both sex and all ages, suffering from a psychiatric illness and on at least one psychotropic drug, attending the psychiatry OPD during the study [Figure 1]. Patients with pregnancy and lactating mothers were excluded from the study as being at high risk, their prescription usually follows strict guidelines, so may not reflect true day-to-day practice. A predesigned data abstraction form was used to collect the required information on prescription patterns including duration of the prescription, name of the drug, route of administration, and demographic and clinical pro forma used to collect information regarding gender, locality, education, occupation, diagnosis, and duration of illness of these patients. The diagnosis was recorded according to the DSM-5. The World Health Organization (WHO)-drug use indicators[8] included to analyze the prescriptions were: 1) the average number of drugs per prescription, 2) the average number of psychotropic drugs per prescription, 3) the percentage of the psychotropic drugs prescribed by generic name, 4) the percentage of injectable drugs prescribed, 5) percentage of prescriptions containing psychotropic fixed-dose combinations(FDC), 6) percentage of the psychotropic drugs prescribed from essential drug list, and 7) percentage of the psychotropic drugs prescribed from the hospital pharmacy. To determine the proportion of drugs prescribed from the essential list, the prescription is compared with the WHO-EDL[9] and the National list of Essential Medicine (NLEM).[10],[11] The data were then entered and analyzed using SPSS for Windows V 14.0 (SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA).
Figure 1: Flow chart of participant recruitment

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  Results Top

Our study population comprises 69.8% of female patients and 30.1% of male patients [Table 1.1].Somatic symptom disorder (37.1%) was the most frequent diagnosis encountered, followed by generalized anxiety disorder (17.9%) and major depressive disorder (15.6%) [Table 1.2].
Table 1:

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Amitriptyline (42.96%) was the most frequently prescribed antidepressant, followed by escitalopram (39.6%) [Table 2.1]. Olanzapine (45.4%) was the most frequently prescribed antipsychotic, followed by haloperidol (28.2%) [Table 2.2]. Alprazolam (65.3%) was the most frequently prescribed benzodiazepine (BZD), followed by clonazepam (19.05%) and clobazam (10.2%) [Table 2.3].
Table 2:

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The most frequently mentioned drug in the prescriptions was antidepressants (28.9%), followed by BZDs and Z-drugs (18.1%) [Figure 2].
Figure 2: Frequency of prescription

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63.01% of psychotropics were mentioned in generic names, whereas 71% of psychotropics were supplied from the hospital pharmacy. 24.66% of prescriptions contained fixed-drug combinations. The proportion of psychotropics from the WHO EDL, 2021, and NLEM, 2021, was 30.57% and 30.11%, respectively. No injectable drugs were used [Table 3]. Data regarding Duration of illness,Miscellaneous drugs used & Duration of prescription were described in supplementary files [supplementary 1], [supplementary 2] and [supplementary 3].
Table 3: Drug usage indicators

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  Discussion Top

In our study, females were more than males; it has been shown in previous studies that the burden of mental illness is more in females than that of males and are more likely to seek outpatient treatment.[12],[13] Somatic symptom disorder was the most common diagnosis, followed by anxiety disorders and mood disorders. Studies in the past show a similar pattern of psychiatric morbidity among patients attending the OPD.[14],[15] Amitriptyline and escitalopram were the two most frequent antidepressants prescribed in our sample. The choice of amitriptyline is probably based on the clinician's preference based on their experience in managing pain symptoms in somatic symptom disorder as it is effective in neuropathic pain, and a significant proportion of our sample had somatic symptom disorder.[16] Amitriptyline is also frequently used for somatic symptom disorders.[17] In our study, amitriptyline was prescribed more than escitalopram. In other studies, where escitalopram was the most commonly prescribed antidepressant; depression and anxiety disorder constituted a significant proportion of diagnoses in the participants.[14],[18],[19] One reason that escitalopram and amitriptyline were frequently prescribed in our study was their availability in the hospital pharmacy.

The choice of an antipsychotic like an antidepressant is based mainly on its side-effect profile.[20] Olanzapine is the most common antipsychotic prescribed, which is in concurrence with the previous surveys of the prescription pattern.[14],[17],[18] One study reported the use of mostly first-generation antipsychotics which included haloperidol,[21] which is the second most common antipsychotic used in our study. Both olanzapine and haloperidol were available in our hospital pharmacy.

Alprazolam was the most commonly used, and clonazepam was the second most commonly used BZD in our study. Previous studies found clonazepam to be the most commonly prescribed.[14],[17],[18] There is a contrasting evidence about the efficacy of alprazolam over other BZDs.[22],[23] Availability of alprazolam in the hospital pharmacy is the reason behind its most common prescription.

Among psychotropics, antidepressants were most frequently prescribed, followed by BZDs and Z-drugs, and antipsychotics. These findings are similar to previous studies of prescription patterns in India.[5],[17] The reason for prescribing antidepressants and BZDs is due to a significant proportion of our samples being diagnosed with somatic symptom disorder, anxiety disorders, and major depressive disorder. The average number of drugs and psychotropics per prescription was 3.4 and 1.93, respectively [Table 3]. The results for the average number of drugs are similar to a previous study,[5] but slightly higher than a previous study[19] done in India. The average number of psychotropics used in this study was similar to previous studies,[18],[19] but lower than a study where polypharmacy was admitted.[5] These results indicate that avoidance of polypharmacy was nearly achieved in our study. The proportion of drugs prescribed by generic names was higher than in one previous study,[19] but lower than in other studies[5] exploring prescription patterns in India. The fact that more than one-third of the medications were not prescribed by generic name was due to patients' feedback to clinicians regarding the inability to understand the generic name by a few of the pharmacists, who are better acquainted with the brand names. The proportion of drugs prescribed from the hospital schedule was higher than in one study,[19] but similar to other studies.[5] The higher proportion of prescriptions from the hospital schedule is due to the hospital rules, patient affordability, and availability of drugs in the hospital pharmacy. No injectable drugs were prescribed which is similar to a previous study,[19] but lower than other studies.[5] The reasons can be a concern over adverse effects like pain at the injection site and patients preferring oral over injectable drugs. Prescription of fixed-drug combinations was similar to previous studies,[19] but higher than a previous study.[5] The main reason for one-fourth of the prescriptions having fixed-drug combinations is due to the patients' preference of taking a single medication rather than taking multiple medications. Our study reported around 30% of the medications being prescribed from NLEM, which is lower than a previous study done in 2014;[5] this may be due to the changes made in the current version of both WHO EDL[9] and NLEM.[10],[11] Regarding the strength of our study, while other studies previously done in West Bengal, either of small sample size and used nonrandom sampling,[5],[6] our study used random sampling and is of an adequate sample size as per recommendation.[7]

  Conclusion Top

Neurotic disorders, anxiety disorders, and mood disorders are major mental health concerns among laborers and their dependents. Even in such a specific group population, females are more sufferer than males. The provision of escitalopram, amitriptyline, alprazolam, and clonazepam can meet the majority of mental health needs of the labor class population. Although more studies in similar settings are required to address the mental health needs of laborers properly and subsequent policy-making. Psychotropic prescription patterns in laborers may be influenced by many factors such as the diagnosis pattern, free availability of medicine from the hospital pharmacy, hospital rules, patient affordability, patient preference as well as clinician preference, requiring further focused study to conclude. Polypharmacy in psychiatry practice catering to laborers can be achieved through an institution-based mental health delivery.


Despite the rigorous methodology adopted, this study is not beyond shortcomings. The limitations of this study lie in prescription patterns for individual diagnoses and differences in prescription patterns between different diagnoses. The cross-sectional nature of this study could not infer the change in trends of prescription patterns over time for individual diagnoses. Being a hospital-based study, its result may not reflect a resemblance with the prescription pattern followed by mental health-care professionals practicing in the community. However, results from this study are important for policy-making for providing a better mental health-care delivery to laborer by ensuring an adequate availability of psychotropics in catering centers.


We thank Dr. Chandan Chatterjee, Professor, Department of Pharmacology of ESI-PGIMSR, ESIC MC, and H, for guiding us and providing us necessary literature during the synopsis preparation of this study. We also thank Dr. Paramita Patra, Ex-Senior Resident, Dr. Wasim Islam, and Dr. Sikandar Ali Ex-Junior Resident of our department for helping us in data collection process.

Financial support and sponsorship

It is a self-funded study by all authors.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

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Correspondence Address:
Avik Chakraborty,
C/l-1, Jyangra, Ghoshpara (Near Sishu Kalyan Sangha), P.O-Jyangra B.O, P.S-Baguiati, Kolkata - 700 059, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/amh.amh_129_22


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3]


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