Prozac has been cleared for treating children over eight years suffering from depression, but regulators have imposed strict conditions on its use.
The conditions imposed by the European licensing agency (EMEA) call for the use of the drug only when other therapies have failed. "Prozac should only be used together with psychological therapy in patients non-responding to such therapy alone after four to six sessions," said the EMEA.
Also if the child does not respond in nine weeks, it should be reconsidered. Such a move has never happened before, says Tim Kendall, joint director of the National Collaborating Centre for Mental Health. "This is the first time to my knowledge that a drug has been given a license which includes a period of psychological treatment before and during the drug treatment," he said.
The Department of Health said that anti-depressants should be rarely used in children aged 5 to 11 years, but some conditions do warrant their use, "It is important to note that some drugs which may be classified as antidepressants are used for other disorders such as nocturnal enuresis (bed-wetting), anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and phobic states."