Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
Foster children are prescribed strong antipsychotic drugs at rates that are similar to the most mentally disabled young people on Medicaid, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found. The study found that three drugs in particular–Risperdal, Seroquel and Zyprexa–are often prescribed in tandem, not for their antipsychotic effects, but as “major tranquilizers.”
Researchers expressed alarm that the drugs are being used to treat “troubled kids” who do not have the severe mental health disorders that would legitimately warrant heavy use of the medications. Two percent of foster children are given some form of medication, the study reports, a number that is significantly different from the average number of children who are given diagnoses of schizophrenia and severe bipolar disorder.
“We simply don’t have evidence to support this kind of use, especially in young children,” Susan dosReis, an associate professor in the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and the lead author, told The New York Times.
The Times reports that policy makers are taking action to stop this disturbing trend:
…The relatively high rates of these drug combinations in such a young and vulnerable group have prompted policy makers across the country to take notice. A consortium of 16 states, in collaboration with Rutgers University, has drawn up guidelines to improve care for foster children and others dependent on state aid.
“The psychiatrists who are treating these kids on the front lines are not doing it for money; there are very low reimbursement rates from Medicaid,” said Dr. Ramesh Raghavan, a mental health services researcher at Washington University in St. Louis. “There’s enormous anguish because everyone knows that this is not what we should be doing for these kids. We as a society simply haven’t made the investment in psychosocial treatments, and so we are forced to rely on psychotropic drugs to carry the burden.”
Image: Pill bottle, via Shutterstock.
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Monday, August 15th, 2011
The non-profit organization Partnership for Safe Medicines has released a report chronicling how opening U.S. markets to foreign drug importation could exacerbate the problem of fake online pharmacies selling counterfeit medication, specifically to children.
According to the report, “A Risky Proposition,” more than one-quarter of all American children and teens take regular prescription medications for conditions ranging from asthma to ADHD to depression to diabetes.
Counterfeit drugs are a common problem internationally, the report says, including counterfeit flu vaccines discovered in the United Kingdom the the Netherlands in 2006, the 2009 deaths of 84 children in Nigeria because of tainted teething medication, and 12 million fake medicines including antibiotics, anti-tetanus medication, and aspirin uncovered in a 2009 raid in several Southeast Asian countries.
The report cautions that parents who might be tempted by lower prices through online pharmacies could be putting their children at risk. Parents should, therefore, always buy medications from accredited and licensed pharmacies. From the report:
America’s closed and secure system covering the supply chain and sale of medications is much stronger than those in many other countries. State and federal agencies closely regulate the flow of source material for medicine, its manufacturer, distribution and sale, and ultimately its dispensation at licensed pharmacies…. This combination of a closed and secure system, along with aggressive law enforcement efforts explains why there are fewer incidents of counterfeit drugs in the U.S. medicine supply than in many other countries.
Some Americans are circumventing the protected closed system by buying medicines from fake “online pharmacies” that they may not know are scams. Buying online from entities that are not legal, accredited pharmacies is a high-risk activity for loved ones.
Hence, the anonymity of the Internet means anyone can claim anything about themselves online including sham businesses. This means that “Canada” doesn’t always mean “Canadian” and labels or postmarks from “trusted” countries do not mean the contents are from these countries. Drugs from Canada, UK, and other western countries are viewed as safe, inexpensive and, particularly with the increased popularity of the Internet, easily accessible — all reasons why proponents of importation reference Canadian and European drugs so often. Unfortunately, many Americans – as well as Members of Congress – are unaware of the actual personal and public health dangers. But these dangers are more and more prevalent as a result of fake medicines and pharmacies, and the open and largely unregulated trade policies that
make it possible to infiltrate the global drug supply.
(image via: http://www.legaljuice.com/)
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Tuesday, July 5th, 2011
The first scientific study to examine the connection between autism and antidepressant medications taken during pregnancy has found that women who take Zoloft, Prozac, and other SSRI-class drugs have about twice the risk of having a child with autism, especially if the mothers take the medications during the first trimester.
The study, which was published Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, is a small initial investigation into what is likely to become a better-studied area of what causes children to develop the group of developmental and cognitive problems known as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Only 20 of the almost 300 children studied had been exposed to antidepressants in utero, so researchers urged further investigation and study.
Women who had a history of mental health treatment but did not take medication during pregnancy were found to have no increased autism risk. But the study’s authors said that the findings are not conclusive enough to recommend holding the medication back from pregnant women who are at risk of mental illness: “The potential risk associated with exposure must be balanced with the risk to the mother or fetus of untreated mental health disorders.”
“Poor maternal mental health during pregnancy is a major public health issue,” Tim Oberlander, M.D., a professor of developmental pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, told CNN.com. “Nontreatment is not an option. While some children might be at risk from an SSRI exposure–and we don’t know who, and how that works–there are many mothers and their children as well who will benefit.”
Click here for fellow Parents.com blogger Richard Rende‘s analysis of how this study is but the first step toward a definitive answer on a possible autism/antidepressant connection. And for more on autism, see:
(image via: http://www.digmlm.com/)
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