Monthly Archives: May 2006

New antipsychotic drugs carry risks for children – Side effects can lead to bigger health problems

USA TODAY

By Marilyn Elias

Nancy Thomas remembers the bad old days when she had to wear long-sleeve clothes to church to cover bite marks all over her arms from her daughter Alexa’s rages.

At age 8, Alexa was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She was a violent child with sharp mood swings and meltdowns that drove her to tear up the house. Antidepressants and drugs for attention-deficit disorder had only made Alexa more aggressive, Thomas says.

A mix of medicines including so-called atypical antipsychotics — drugs approved only for adults — finally stabilized Alexa’s moods. Now at 15, she is able to live a more normal life — as long as she takes the medication.

Even so, the Russellville, Mo., teen is paying a price: On one of the atypical antipsychotics, Alexa gained about 100 pounds in a year, putting her at risk for a host of health problems, including diabetes. It has taken her three years to lose a third of that extra weight; she is still struggling with the rest.

Atypicals are a new generation of antipsychotic drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for adult schizophrenia and bipolar disorder (manic depression). None of the six drugs — Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon — is approved for kids, but doctors can prescribe them as “off-label” medications…

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Adult antipsychotics can worsen troubles; Critics: Look at other causes before medicating children

USA TODAY

By Marilyn Elias

Evan Kitchens, a cheerful fourth-grader who loves basketball and idolizes his 16-year-old brother, had been hospitalized for mental illness by the time he was 8.

The boy from Bandera, Texas, was aggressive and hyperactive and had been diagnosed with a variety of other ailments, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and an autism spectrum disorder.

A couple of years ago, Evan was taking five psychiatric drugs, says his mother, Mary Kitchens. Two were so-called atypical antipsychotics, a group of relatively new drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating adults with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

“Evan was a walking zombie on all those drugs,” Kitchens says. At the harrowing nadir two years ago, she wondered whether her son would survive, let alone live a normal life.

Evan shook with severe body tremors and hardly talked. He had crossed eyes, a dangerously low white blood cell count and a thyroid disorder, all symptoms that emerged after he started the atypical antipsychotic drugs, Kitchens says. Now, he has been weaned from the drugs and takes medicine only for attention-deficit disorder, she says. And he is mentally healthier than he has ever been.

These six new antipsychotic drugs — Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon — are not approved for children, but doctors can prescribe them to kids “off label.” And prescribing atypical antipsychotics for aggressive children such as Evan is leading the field in a growing pediatric business, according to a new analysis of a federal survey by Vanderbilt Medical School researchers…

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For Evan, more drugs made things worse; One family’s nightmare

USA TODAY

By Marilyn Elias

Rising numbers of U.S. children are taking a new generation of antipsychotic drugs called atypicals.

Although the six drugs — Clozaril, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Abilify and Geodon — can be helpful in treating children with mental illness, critics say that the drugs are overprescribed and that many kids suffer serious side effects from drugs they never needed.

USA TODAY’s Marilyn Elias talks to one mother who believes that’s what happened to her son.

Evan Kitchens had problems from birth. He suffered from lack of oxygen during a difficult delivery. As a baby, he wouldn’t nurse properly, didn’t want to be held and screamed for hours.

“He hardly slept at all,” says his mother, Mary Kitchens, a florist in Bandera, Texas…

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