To examine the incidence rates of antipsychotic (AP) and antidepressant (AD) drug treatment in Norway and the proportions initiated in general practice and specialist care respectively.
Data on all prescriptions of APs and ADs dispensed to the general population in Norway from 1 January 2004 until 31 August 2009 were extracted from the Norwegian Prescription Database. This information was merged with data about general practitioners (GPs) from the Norwegian Regular General Practitioner Scheme.
One-year incidence rates per 1000 inhabitants were 3.4 for APs and 8.6 for ADs. GPs initiated 58% of APs and 73% of ADs, while psychiatrists initiated 15% and 6% respectively. Psychiatrists initiated treatment more often among younger patients, and they prescribed relatively newer drugs more commonly than GPs. A large share of incident users did not refill their prescriptions for APs (57%) or ADs (33%).
GPs have a key role as regards initiating treatment with APs and ADs in Norway, while psychiatrists' influence seems limited, particularly among older patients. Efforts for quality improvement of mental health care need to involve primary health care. In addition, an increased focus from psychiatrists towards the increasingly ageing part of the population seems requisite.