The patient was overweight and had Type 2 diabetes. He was on Crestor for cholesterol, Atacand for hypertension; the proton pump inhibitor Protonix for GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), Axert for migraines and Singulair for asthma. The patient was eight years old.
Kids with adult diseases-- and adult pills by Martha Rosenberg
Since pharma discovered the ka-ching in pediatric psychopharmacology, millions of kids are on ADHD meds and other mental drugs for conduct disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, mood disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, mixed manias, social phobia, anxiety and assorted "spectrum" disorders. They are even treated for seizure spectrum disorders with no seizures.
But according to new data from IMS health in a Wall Street Journal article, just as many kids are being treated for non-psychiatric conditions that are often "adult diseases."
Since 2001, high blood pressure meds for kids have risen 17 percent, respiratory meds 42 percent, diabetes meds 150 percent and heartburn/GERD meds 147 percent. Fifty percent of pediatricians also prescribe kids insomnia drugs according to an article in the journal Pediatrics.
In fact, 25 percent of children and 30 percent of adolescents now take at least one prescription for a chronic condition says Medco, the nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager, making the kid prescription market four times as strong as the adult in 2009.
Why? Well one reason is the ped population is suffering from "middle age spread" just like the adult population from too many calories and too little exercise. Over a third of US kids are overweight and 17 percent are obese -- which for a 4-foot-10 inch child would be 143 pounds -- which predisposes someone to diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease and the osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal disorders kids are also contracting from carrying around too much weight.
But another reason is the direct-to-consumer drug advertising on TV which began over a decade ago. In between ads for M&Ms, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Oreos, Hershey's Milk Chocolate and Doritos, kids and their parents saw $108 million worth of ads for Prilosec, $100 million for Claritins and $91 million for Zocor in 2000 -- when the national "epidemics" of GERD, "seasonal allergies" and "statin deficiencies" began.
Nor are the meds kids are taking even deemed safe for children.
Kids react differently to medicines says Duke University pediatrics professor Danny Benjamin in the Wall Street Journal and in a third of FDA studies, what was thought to be the right dose for a kid, wasn't. Long-term safety in kids is also "almost never known," says Dr. Benjamin since ped studies, like all drugs studies, are of short duration.
(Wait seven years before taking a new drug unless you want to be an uncompensated tester say drug safety advocates.)
Consider statins like Lipitor, the world's top selling medication, which was approved for US children in 2008 and recently in a chewable form in Europe. (Move over Froot Loops and Flinstone gummies.)
Over-prescribed, of debatable effectiveness in reducing heart attack, less desirable than lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol and expensive, statins are six times more likely to cause liver dysfunction, acute kidney failure, cataracts and muscle damage in adult patients says a 2010 article in the British Medical Journal. Let's give them to kids?
Statins are also linked to nerve damage, memory loss, sleep disturbances, impotence, breasts in men, a lupus-like syndrome and acute, usually mild, pancreatitis in an observational study says the Medical Letter, though cause and effect are not clear.