Antipsychotic Drug Use Rising Among ADHD Kids
New Antipsychotic Drugs Not Proven Safe for Treatment of ADHD in Children
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 2, 2004 -- A growing number of children with behavioral
problems, such as ADHD, are being treated with new antipsychotic medications
that haven't been well-studied or proven to work safely in children, according
to a new study.
Researchers found the proportion of children on TennCare,
Tennessee's program for Medicaid enrollees and the uninsured, prescribed
antipsychotics for the first time nearly doubled from 1996 to 2001. At the same
time, use of these drugs for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorders among adolescents more than tripled.
"There were three areas of concern. First, these drugs
appeared to be prescribed for disorders they are not proven to treat in
children; second, the side effects of these drugs in children are not well
understood; and third, usage of these drugs appears to be increasing
dramatically," says researcher William Cooper, MD, of Vanderbilt
University, in a news release.
Researchers say that in the past, use of antipsychotics to
treat behavioral problems in children and adolescents was limited due to the
high risk of side effects, such as movement disorders, associated with the
drugs available at that the time.
A new generation of antipsychotics was introduced in the 1990s
that don't carry the risks of these traditional side effects at least in
adults. But researchers say the safety and effectiveness of these drugs in
children is not yet thoroughly understood.
This new generation of antipsychotics includes Clozaril,
Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, and Geodon. They are approved for use in treating
psychosis and Tourette syndrome in adults- a neurological disorder
characterized by involuntary movements and uncontrolled vocal noises.
"The newer drugs do have their own set of potential side
effects, including serious weight gain, heart rhythm problems, and
diabetes," says Cooper. "These are potential side effects that are not
well understood when applied to children. In fact, some preliminary studies
suggest that the side effects from these medications are more common and may be
more severe in children than in adults."
Antipsychotic Use Rising Among Children
In the study, researchers looked at the use of antipsychotic
medications among children aged 2 to 18 years enrolled in TennCare. The results
appear in the August issue of Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent
The study showed that the number of children who were
prescribed antipsychotics for the first time nearly doubled from 23 per 10,000
in 1996 to 45 per 10,000 in 2001. More than 43% of the children who received
the drugs were diagnosed as having ADHD or conduct disorder.
Researchers say there were also significant changes in how
antipsychotics were used among children. For example, use of the drugs for the
treatment ADHD and mood disorders increased by more than twofold during the
study period, while use of the drugs for psychosis or Tourette syndrome
remained relatively constant.