Qato says that solutions worth further study may include updating drug safety software to recognize depression as a potential drug-drug interaction, so that health care professionals, including pharmacists, are more likely to notice if a patient is using multiple medications that may increase risk.
They found that almost 1 in 3 participants took drugs that listed depression as a potential side effect - which include pills for heart disease, acid reflux, pain and anxiety, as well as birth control - and that taking them was linked to depression.
More and more Americans are using such prescription drugs, according to the study published this week in the journal JAMA.
The research team, led by Dima Qato, professor of pharmacy at the University of Illinois-Chicago, found that roughly 4.7% of those who don't take any medication with depression as a side effect have depression, compared to 6.9% of those who take one such drug, and 15.3% of those who take three or more.
For drugs with depression as a possible side effect, use increased from 35 percent in 2005 to 38 percent in the 2013 to 2014 period.
For those using one of the medications, 7 percent said they experienced depression, and for those taking two drugs simultaneously, 9 percent experienced depression.
"It could, in fact, be that the drugs are leading to depression, however it could be that people had pre-existing depression".
A new study shows that many Americans are unaware of the depressive side effects of many common medications.
More than one-third of adults in the US take prescription drugs not knowing they could potentially cause depression or increase the risk of suicide, a new study finds.
Qato notes that the study also shows an important trend of increasing polypharmacy for medications with depression, particularly suicidal symptoms, as a potential adverse effect. Some of these drugs include certain types of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), beta blockers, anxiety drugs, painkillers including ibuprofen, ACE inhibitors (used to treat high blood pressure), and anticonvulsant drugs. Depression is potentially one of these problems.
Researchers cautioned that the survey approach meant conclusions could not be drawn about cause-and-effect, and that questionnaires did not account for a history of depression. The survey shows that over the decade in question, all the common drugs looked at it in the study were increasingly prescribed.
"Many prescription medicines may have depression as a possible side effect and this should be discussed with patients up front".
With the national suicide rate increasing, Qato said, "We need to think innovatively about depression as a public health issue, and this study provides evidence that patterns of medication use should be considered in strategies that seek to eliminate, reduce or minimize the impact of depression in our daily lives".