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Children's Health

Antipsychotic Drugs May Triple Kids' Diabetes Risk

This class of drugs is increasingly used to treat children with ADHD, depression
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"Diabetes can develop relatively soon after beginning these drugs," Ray said. "We found that the risk was increased within the first year of use, and this is consistent with case reports. The risk may need to be considered even for relatively short periods of use."

The specific antipsychotic medication used with children didn't seem to have any effect on reducing risk of diabetes.

"In our study, we didn't see a difference between different types of drugs," Ray said. "It may be an effect of the whole class of antipsychotics." The majority of participants were taking "atypical" antipsychotics, also called second-generation antipsychotics.

Another expert agreed that the study results are cause for concern.

The findings should lead doctors and parents to question the "off-label" use of antipsychotic drugs for conditions other than schizophrenia and psychosis, said Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

"There aren't many antipsychotic medications that are FDA-approved for use in children," Duckworth said. "When you're using a compound that doesn't have an indication, you have to be very careful about the risk/benefit assessment of that medication. You want to make sure you've reviewed all the alternative medicines and alternative strategies."

Ray agreed, arguing that doctors should consider all other alternative treatments before resorting to antipsychotics.

If children must be placed on antipsychotics, then doctors and parents need to keep a close eye on them for early warning signs of diabetes. "Frequent monitoring of the factors that lead to diabetes would be important, including weight and glucose intolerance," Ray said.

In the past 20 years, growing numbers of U.S. children and teens -- especially overweight kids -- have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, formerly known as adult onset diabetes. This puts them at risk of developing other serious health conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease.

Although the study found an association between the use of antipsychotics and a greatly increased risk of childhood type 2 diabetes, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

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