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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