A combination of two medications – a stimulant and the antipsychotic Risperdal – may be a helpful treatment for children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and severe aggression, but the amount of additional benefit appears to be moderate, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Risperdal, also known as risperidone, is approved to treat adults and children with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism with irritability. It is not approved as a treatment for ADHD or ADD, but it is often prescribed by doctors off-label for those conditions and in many cases Risperdal is given in combination with a stimulant.
“However, there is very little research indicating whether or not this treatment strategy is truly effective,” Dr. Kenneth Gadow, professor of psychiatry at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in New York told MedScape Medical News. Dr. Gadow pored through data from the Treatment of Severe Childhood Aggression (TOSCA) study and found that children who were treated with a stimulant plus Risperdal experienced greater reduction in symptoms. However, Dr. Gadow noted, a “relatively large percentage” of children were still rated as having behavior problems by either teachers or parents.
While the combination treatment may offer some benefits for treating children with these conditions, parents and caregivers should be aware that Risperdal does carry side effects that can be difficult for children. For example, Risperdal has been linked to gynecomastia, a condition in which boys and young men grow breasts. The condition is embarrassing and can cause emotional scars. Breasts can become painful and lactate. And treatment often involves surgeries such as liposuction or mastectomy to remove breast tissue.
Johnson & Johnson’s unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals, maker of Risperdal, is currently facing lawsuits alleging the companies were aware of Risperdal side effects but failed to adequately warn consumers.