Antipsychotic Drugs Raise Risk of Diabetes in Children

Dangerous drug lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on new research which suggests that the use of antipsychotic medications in children increases the risk of Type II diabetes, particularly in children. In response, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently began a review of antipsychotic drug use in underage Medicaid beneficiaries.

The use of antipsychotic drugs such as Risperdal and Zyprexa in children has grown significantly in recent years. One study conducted in 2009 found that the FDA estimated the growth rate to be about 65% between 2002 and 2009. There are currently nearly 5 million underage children on these drugs, which are intended to treat such ailments as psychosis, schizophrenia, and other major cognitive disorders.

The most recent study, published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, looked at medical records of about 43,000 underage Medicaid recipients in Tennessee. Researchers aimed to determine whether the youths developed Type II diabetes by related drug prescriptions or doctor diagnoses.

The findings are particularly troubling for those children who are prescribed antipsychotics due to ailments that could be treated with other, less dangerous medications, such as those with autism, ADHD and behavioral problems. There are some conditions, however, for which antipsychotics are the main line of treatment. These include psychosis and schizophrenia, and were excluded from the study.

Those who were treated with antipsychotics demonstrated a threefold increase in Type II diabetes development risk, compared to children with similar ailments who were treated with antidepressants or antianxiety medications. In adults, the risk of diabetes development is about twofold.

The risk was evident within the first year of antipsychotic treatment in children, and the long-term cumulative dose was associated with even greater diabetes risk. Antipsychotics seem to increase insulin resistance, which is a key factor in Type II diabetes development. These drugs may also promote weight gain, another leading factor for the disease.

The study was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which is a subsidiary of the federal Department of Health and Human Services. One of the lead authors, a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University, stated that, if no other alternatives are available, children should be treated with the lowest dose possible for the shortest amount of time.

In 2008, Medicaid spent about $3.6 billion on antipsychotic medications, a substantial increase from 1999, when spending was at about $1.6 billion. Such medications include Abilify, the country’s number one prescription drug, and Seroquel. These drugs, in addition to the previously mentioned Risperdal and Zyprexa, were developed to replace antipsychotics approved in the 1950s (Haldol, Thorazine) which caused severe side effects.

Sales of the new class of antipsychotics grew rapidly as they were touted as safer and more tolerable; then, with the FDA’s approval to treat certain pediatric conditions, doctors increasingly began prescribing them to treat violent and aggressive behavior in children. Many now believe that they are being prescribed too liberally and for off-label use, with concerns about the possible long-term side effects.

Many doctors believe there is too much reliance on drugs to stabilize irritable children instead of focusing on understanding what is triggering such behavior. The chairman of child psychiatry at NYU-Langone Medical Center stated that the health care industry is missing large opportunities to help American children. Indeed, children on Medicaid are prescribed antipsychotics at four times the rate of privately insured youths.

The federal investigation is intended to determine, among many things, whether taxpayers were billed for inappropriate, poor-quality care or if the prescriptions were medically indicated. The more troubling statistics show that over 19,000 children aged five and under were prescribed antipsychotics through Medicaid in 2008. More than 480 children under three were prescribed an antipsychotic in the same year, including one listed as a month old.

Antipsychotic drug lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm will continue to report on the findings from this federal Medicaid study, and its effects on prescribing practices in American pediatric clinics. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by an antipsychotic drug, you have important legal rights, and may be entitled to significant compensation for any medical bills, lost wages, and emotional distress.

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