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…