-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, March 22 (HealthDay News) -- Use of antipsychotic drugs
among Medicaid-insured children increased sharply from 1997 to
2006, according to a new study.
These drugs were prescribed for children covered by Medicaid
five times more often than for children with private insurance.
Researchers said this disparity should be examined more closely,
particularly because these drugs were often prescribed for a
so-called off-label use, which is when a drug is used in a
different way than has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug
"Many [of the children] were diagnosed with behavioral rather than psychotic conditions for which [these drugs] have FDA-approved labeling," study author Julie Zito, a professor in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, said in a university news release.
"These are often children with serious socioeconomic and family life problems," she noted. "We need more information on the benefits and risks of using antipsychotics for behavioral conditions, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder [ADHD], in community-treated populations."
Antipsychotic drugs are traditionally used to treat conditions
such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive
For the study, the researchers examined the use of antipsychotic
drugs among 500,000 children ranging in age from 2 to 17.
Children with low family income participating in the state
Children's Health Insurance Program or those with very low income
in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families assistance program
had the most significant increase in antipsychotic medication
Less change occurred in the use of these drugs among the most
vulnerable children, such as those in foster care or those with
disabilities in the Supplemental Security Income program.
"It raises questions such as 'are the standard treatments for behavior conditions sufficiently evidence-based in community populations.' Outcomes research can answer these questions," Zito said.
Many of the children involved in the study received only one or
two prescriptions for antipsychotics before leaving treatment, the
"For a behavior problem, it means they just didn't come back, so there may be a continuity problem," Zito said. "This suggests we need more emphasis on uninterrupted community care. But unfortunately, we have a very disjointed health care system."
The study appeared March 1 in the journal
The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more on
mental health medications.
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