An Ohio agency whose mission is to promote proper use of psychiatric medications in young children is taking aim at a subset of psychotropic drugs known as atypical antipsychotics such as Risperdal and Abilify, both of which were initially developed for schizophrenia. Risperdal side effects, in particular, include breast development in boys.
Ohio Minds Matter was launched about 18 months ago and involves three regional pilot programs to help educate primary care doctors, parents and others about the best use of psychiatric medications.
Dr. Steven Jewell, vice president and medical director of Child Guidance and Family Solutions in Akron, and chairman of one of the Minds Matter groups, agrees that medications can be beneficial for children who suffer from a variety of conditions including depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety. However, they should only be used when they are truly needed because “we really don’t know the impact of these medicines on a developing mind,” he told the Akron Beacon Journal.
This is of particular concern with drugs like Risperdal and Abilify, which are often prescribed to children for off-label uses and have been linked to side effects such as weight gain that can lead to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular problems and other health problems.
Risperdal is also known by the generic name risperidone. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat schizophrenia and certain problems caused by bipolar disorder, as well as irritability in children and adolescents with autism. It is not approved for the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, Tourette’s syndrome, or dementia, though it has been prescribed for those unapproved uses.
A recent study has found that Risperdal has been linked to a condition called gynecomastia in which boys grow breasts. An investigation into the drug was launched after numerous of lawsuits were filed across the country.
Last year, Johnson & Johnson settled a lawsuit claiming that the drug caused young men and boys to develop breast tissue. The lawsuit alleged that Johnson & Johnson and its unit Jansen Pharmaceuticals covered up information about the drug. Risperdal is thought to increase a hormone called prolactin, which enables females to produce milk.
“There is no doubt these medications can be lifesaving in certain circumstances,” Jewell said. But, “awareness is the puzzle piece.”
Source: Akron Beacon Journal