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More Children on Medicaid Taking Antipsychotic Drugs for Off-Label Uses

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A growing number of children enrolled in Medicaid are taking antipsychotic drugs for off-label uses, a new study finds. These drugs are prescribed for a purpose that has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The study found a 62 percent increase between 2002 and 2007 in the number of children enrolled in Medicaid who were taking antipsychotics. In 2007, the study found 65 percent of the 354,000 children using these drugs were taking them for uses not approved by the FDA, HealthDay reports.

Antipsychotics are often prescribed off-label for attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), according to the researchers from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The researchers note that 50 percent of children taking antipsychotics in 2007 were diagnosed with ADHD.

Children who were diagnosed with three or more mental health disorders were among the largest group to take antipsychotic drugs, the study found. The researchers note that these drugs are associated with an increased risk of serious side effects in children, such as weight gain and diabetes.

“If a child is prescribed an antipsychotic, it’s important for doctors to inform parents and caregivers if the drug is being prescribed off-label, of potential side effects, and of counseling therapies that might be offered as an alternative to medication,” study senior author Dr. David Rubin said in a news release.

The study appears in the journal Health Services Research.

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