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More U.S. Kids Prescribed Off-Label Antipsychotics: Study
Date:9/18/2012

TUESDAY, Sept. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Over the past decade, off-label use of antipsychotic drugs has increased among children enrolled in Medicaid, according to a new study representing 35 percent of children in the United States.

Off-label drug use is a term used to describe when drugs are prescribed using a dosage, type of dosage or for a purpose that hasn't yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In the study, researchers from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia found a 62 percent jump in the number of publicly insured children between the ages of 3 and 18 taking antipsychotics. In 2007 alone, 65 percent of the 354,000 children on these drugs were taking them for uses that have not been approved by the FDA, the investigators pointed out.

"We knew that the number of children prescribed antipsychotics had grown steadily over the past two decades, particularly among children with public insurance," study author Meredith Matone, a researcher at PolicyLab, said in a hospital news release. "With this study, we wanted to learn more about why these drugs are being used so often, what diagnoses they're being used to treat, and how prescribing patterns changed over the course of the last decade."

The researchers pointed out that the spike in off-label antipsychotic use may be partly due to a 28 percent increase in the number of children diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Off-label use of these drugs is primarily associated with treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or conduct disorder. The researchers noted that in 2007, 50 percent of children taking antipsychotics were diagnosed with ADHD, and 14 percent of these had ADHD as their only diagnosis.

Children diagnosed with three or more mental health disorders were also among the largest group of kids taking antipsychotics. Children diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism were also most likely to
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