What's more, a 2008 report in The Lancet suggested that some of these drugs -- sometimes called "second-generation" antipsychotics -- may be no better than older, "first-generation" medicines. The authors concluded that each drug must be weighed individually based on its efficacy and side effects.
Correll's study was designed to assess the safety and effectiveness of the newer class of drugs in youth. His team followed 272 patients, aged 4 to 19, who were taking an antipsychotic for the first time. Patients were being treated for mood spectrum, schizophrenia spectrum or aggressive behavior spectrum disorders.
Fifteen pediatric patients who refused to participate or discontinued their antipsychotic medication within four weeks of starting served as a control group.
The study focused on four antipsychotics commonly prescribed to children: aripiprazole (Abilify), olanzapine (Zyprexa), quetiapine (Seroquel) and risperidone (Risperdal).
After nearly 11 weeks, the treated kids gained an average of 18.7 pounds on Zyprexa, 13.4 pounds on Seroquel, 11.7 pounds on Risperdal and 9.7 pounds on Abilify, while the control group gained less than half a pound. Between 10 percent and 36 percent became overweight or obese during the treatment period, according to the study.
"In these kids that we studied, there was rapid and dramatic weight gain, more than has been described before," said Correll, who is also a scientist in the Center for Psychiatric Neuroscience at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y.
Use of each drug was linked to wider bellies and increased "fat mass" -- the proportion of the body comprised of fat.
The drugs had varying effects on metabolic levels. Zyprexa and Seroquel users experienced significant adverse changes in total cholesterol and trigylcerides. Risperdal use resulted in a significant increase in tri
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