Add yet another study to the mix of worries about atypical antipsychotic use in kids. Government research published today found that atypicals are no more effective than older antipsychotic drugs. But the newer meds are more expensive–and more likely to cause harmful side effects, the researchers said.
For instance, kids taking atypicals during the study gained weight quickly, putting on an average of nine to 13 pounds. Some gained 15 pounds in eight weeks, which as much as adults using the drugs gain over a year’s time, the report said. These kids also developed cholesterol and insulin changes that are risk factors for diabetes. Those using an older antipsychotic drug gained less than a pound, on average, and showed little change in cholesterol and insulin levels.
Treatment guidelines should be revised to include some older drugs that had fallen out of favor, and thus fallen off the standard-usage list, the authors concluded.
Experts told the New York Times that the study results probably will change the treatment of 1 million children and teens with schizophrenia. That’s bad news for the companies that make leading atypicals–Johnson & Johnson (Risperdal), Eli Lilly (Zyprexa), Bristol-Myers Squibb (Abilify), Pfizer (Geodon), and AstraZeneca (Seroquel). Prescription rates for these meds have enjoyed a strong growth curve, increasing more than fivefold among children over the past 15 years.