October 26

More Spent on Psych Drugs for preschool kids than antibiotics or asthma – AP

More Spent on Psych Drugs for preschool kids than antibiotics or asthma – AP

Mon, 17 May 2004

Data analysis by MEDCO, the nation’s largest prescription benefit manager found that between 2000–2003 there was a 49% increase in the use of psychotropic drugs for children and a 369% increase in spending on ADHD drugs for preschoolers.

This is evidence of medical child abuse.

It is an outcome of pervasive pharmaceutical industry influence on the American medical establishment. Neither government agencies (National Institute of Mental Health, nor the FDA), nor any medical or psychiatric professional association (e.g., the American Medical Association, nor the American Psychiatric Association), nor any of the industry-funded “advocacy” organizations, such as the National Alliance for the Mentally ill (NAMI), did anything to discourage inappropriate prescribing of psychoactive drugs for preschool children.

Their inaction amounted to a seal of approval. As a result, mostly healthy children–including toddlers–are being aggressively drugged rather than hugged. The children are being exposed to the physical and psychiatric adverse effects of these drugs: they are at risk of growth retardation, mania, aggressiveness, explosive violence, and drug dependency.

Those who promoted unfettered prescribing of psychotropic drugs for children caused harm–some children have been driven to suicide after ingesting an antidepressant. Those who promoted these drugs profited from increased sales–but children suffered. They should be prosecuted–as Pfizer was prosecuted for fraudulently promoting Neruontin.

Below: the Associated Press and New York Times

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
Tel: 212-595-8974


Behavior drugs top kids’ prescriptions More spent than on antibiotics, asthma therapy Linda A. Johnson The Associated Press Monday, May 17, 2004 –

Trenton, N.J. – As more children pop pills for attention deficit and other behavior disorders, new figures show spending on those drugs has for the first time edged out the cost of antibiotics and asthma medications for kids.

A 49 percent rise in the use of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs by children under 5 in the past three years contributed to a 23 percent increase in usage for all children, according to an analysis of drug trends by Medco Health Solutions Inc.

“Behavioral medicines have eclipsed the other categories this year,” said Dr. Robert Epstein, Medco’s chief medical officer. “It certainly reflects the concern of parents that their children do as well as they can.”

Antibiotics still top the list of the most commonly used children’s drugs, but parents are paying more for behavioral drugs, such as stimulants or antidepressants, according to the analysis of drug use among 300,000 children under 19.

Medco, the nation’s largest prescription benefit manager, is to release the data today.

The most startling change was a 369 percent increase in spending on attention deficit drugs for children under 5. That’s in part because of the popularity of newer, long-acting medicines.

But the use of other behavioral drugs also jumped. Antidepressant use rose 21 percent and drugs for autism and other conduct disorders jumped 71 percent, compared with a 4.3 percent rise in antibiotics.

Epstein said 17 percent of total drug spending last year for the group was for behavioral medicines, compared with 16 percent each for antibiotics and asthma drugs, 11 percent for skin conditions and 6 percent for allergy medicines.

Use of behavior medicines has been controversial, with some experts questioning whether parents and schools are too eager to medicate disruptive children.

Some experts say no. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing that these medicines are being used more,” said Dr. James McGough, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.

McGough said kids on attention deficit drugs tend to avoid substance abuse and other problems and do better in school.

However, he said, rising adolescent use of antidepressants is a concern, because there’s little proof they work in young people and evidence they may increase suicidal tendencies.

Behavior Drugs Lead in Sales for Children

May 17, 2004

Spending on drugs to treat children and adolescents for behavior-related disorders rose 77 percent from 2000 to the end of 2003, according to a study of prescription purchases by Medco Health Solutions, a pharmacy benefits management company.

The increase, to $536 a patient a year on average, reflected rising prices as growing numbers of young people used newer and more expensive drugs, said Robert S. Epstein, chief medical officer of Medco. The report is to be released today.

Sales of the behavioral drugs are growing faster than any other type of medicine taken by children, pulling ahead of the previous leaders, antibiotics and asthma treatments, he said. Most of the drugs were treatments for depression and attention deficit disorder, including prescriptions combining both treatments for the same patient.

Use of attention disorder drugs by children under age 5 rose 49 percent from 2000 to 2003, to half of all children taking any behavior-related medication. Scientists who have studied the trend called for more research on side effects and benefits.

“The benefits and risks of using these drugs in a preschool population should be studied systematically,” said Dr. Julie Magno Zito, an associate professor of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Maryland who directs a long-running study of pediatric drugs.

The number of children in the sample of 300,000 taking antidepressants rose 15 percent in the first three months of this year, compared with the first quarter of 2003, Medco said. Last year, 65 percent of all children and adolescents taking behavioral medicines were on antidepressants.

Many of the children were taking both antidepressants and attention disorder drugs, or combinations of other behavioral medicines. Dr. Zito said there had been “a huge growth” in children taking combinations of these drugs although clinical studies of the risks have had little attention.

In March, the federal Food and Drug Administration ordered manufacturers to include warnings of a risk of dangerous side effects, including suicide, on these products. The Medco study did not review prescribing patterns after the F.D.A. order, Dr. Epstein said.

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