Harmful side-effects hit kids put on wrong drugs

NZ Herald July 19, 2007
Doctors are unnecessarily prescribing children powerful antipsychotic drugs which can lead to drowsiness, depression, tooth decay and weight gain. The findings were part of a national study investigating the safety and use of a relatively new class of antipsychotic drug on the under-16s. More than 90 per cent of prescriptions for the 420 children involved in the study were for risperidone, which is sold under the trade names Risperdal and Ridal. It has been a government subsidised medicine since 1998, with about 600 children being prescribed the drug.The study by the Intensive Medicines Monitoring Programme found harmful side-effects in 30 per cent of the children on the drugs classed as “atypical antipsychotics”. A third of these were linked to the drugs, say the researchers. Co-author Mira Harrison-Woolrych said this was the first study in the world to paint a comprehensive, real-life picture of how the increasingly-prescribed second-generation antipsychotics are being used in children.As well as gathering data on adverse reactions, the researchers also investigated the children’s diagnoses and the symptoms being targeted by the drugs. They found conduct disorders and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder to be among the most common diagnoses, followed by autism, Asperger’s syndrome and other developmental disorders. Child psychiatrist and co-author Dr Juan Garcia-Quiroga said aggression and difficult behaviours were found to be the most common target symptoms.