Abstract The purpose of the present study was to review the prescription patterns of antidepressants in different countries in East Asia. The survey was conducted in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan from October 2003 to March 2004 using the unified research protocol and questionnaire. Twenty teaching hospitals and major psychiatric hospitals participated and a total of 1898 patients receiving antidepressants were analyzed. The survey provided a number of interesting characteristics on the prescription patterns of antidepressant in East Asia. Out of 56 antidepressants listed in the Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical Classification (ATC) index by the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Drug Statistics Methodology (Oslo), only 26 antidepressants were prescribed in participating countries in East Asia. On average 38.4% of prescriptions of antidepressants were for patients with diagnoses other than depressive disorders. The availability and commonly prescribed antidepressants varied greatly by country. The selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI) and other newer antidepressants were prescribed in approximately 77.0% of all cases. At the time of the survey, only two SSRI medications were available in Japan. However, five types of SSRI were available and were often prescribed in Korea.