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Kids Dying From Off-Label Use Of Antipsychotics

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"The bottom line is that we are seeing a huge increase in the use of these medications among children, and we are not sure if they work or if they are safe," Cooper told WebMD. "These drugs have not been tested for many of the indications that they are being used for."

Even more disturbing finding was recently reported in a study led by Oregon Health & Science University professor, David Pollack, that revealed that 246 preschool children under the age of 5, who were enrolled in the state-sponsored Medicaid program, were receiving antipsychotic or antidepressant medications.

The review of Medicaid records, reported in the April 2006, Oregon Health News, found that 41% of the preschoolers were prescribed psychiatric drugs for ADD.

Experts say the prospect of children under 5, receiving psychiatric drugs intended for adults is alarming. Also alarming was the finding that about 50% the prescriptions were written by primary care providers and not psychiatrists.

The study was a collaboration by Oregon's department of human services, Medicaid program, and the Oregon State University College of Pharmacy.

An equally disturbing report was published in the April 25, 2005, Columbus Dispatch on an investigation of state Medicaid records that found 18 babies ranging from newborn to 3 years-old in Ohio had been prescribed antipsychotic drugs in July 2004.


In another analysis of privately insured children, by the pharmacy benefit manager, Medco Health Solutions, conducted for USA Today, the rate of children, 19 and under, with at least one atypical prescription had increased 80% in the four years from 2001 to 2005. This analysis did not include any children covered by government programs like Medicaid.

The study noted that atypical use among girls was much greater than with boys. The number of girls taking the drugs grew 103% from 2001 to 2005, compared to a 61% increase with boys.

The rate of children treated with atypicals "is growing dramatically faster than the rate for adults," said Robert Epstein, chief medical officer for Medco, in a press release.

"Doctors need to be judicious when prescribing antipsychotic drugs to children," Epstein warned. "There is evidence that the risk of diabetes and metabolic disorders from using atypical antipsychotics could be much more severe for pediatric patients than adults," he said.

"The use of these drugs," Dr Epstein warned, "can have the pediatric patient trading a behavioral condition for a lifelong metabolic condition that can lead to significant health complications."

Critics say the increased use of atypicals with children is most troubling because the dangers associated with the drugs, in adults and children, has been evident in the scientific literature since before they came on the market.

In the book, Mad In America, award winning author, Robert Whitaker, reports that one out of every 145 subjects who entered clinical trials for Zyprexa, Risperdal, Seroquel, and Serdolect died. By using the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to FDA data on the drug trials for the atypicals he determined:

(1) One in every 145 patients died but the deaths were not mentioned in the scientific literature.

(2) The trials were structured to favor the atypicals and most of the reports were discounted by the FDA as being biased.

(3) One in every thirty-five patients in Risperdal trials experienced a serious adverse event, defined by the FDA as a life threatening or one that required hospitalization.

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Evelyn Pringle is a columnist for OpEd News and investigative journalist focused on exposing corruption in government and corporate America.

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Zyprexa, which is used for the treatment of psychi... by Danny Haszard on Friday, May 5, 2006 at 4:50:44 PM