By Ed Silverman
New Jersey’s Medicaid program spent more than $73 million on antipsychotic medications for children less than 18 years old between 2000 and 2007, according to state records, even though the drugs weren’t approved by the FDA for treating kids. And a state official acknowledges the drugs may have been prescribed for conditions other than schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, the approved uses. As a result, a state legislator is calling for an investigation and is formulating legislation.
“There are horror stories about these meds and there’s a reason they’re not prescribed for kids,” says New Jersey assemblyman Pat Diegnan, who adds that he plans to draft a bill to change the practice and to hold talks with the New Jersey attorney general’s office, which recently formed a task force to examine interactions between pharma and docs. “The entire issue is frightening and the state should be taking a closer look at this. I’m concerned about the casual prescribing by doctors and the enormous amount of money being spent.”
The disclosure comes amid growing debate over antipsychotics. At issue are fears that children are misdiagnosed; drugs are inadequately studied; some docs presribe the pills too readily, and drugmakers promote the meds improperly. As reported previously, a growing number of states are suing various drugmakers over marketing that led Medicaid programs to pay unnecessarily for the meds.
Florida, for instance, is reviewing whether antipsychotics were prescribed improperly for ADHD. “There are no studies that have shown they (atypicals) are safe, or for that matter, that they are effective for children,” Ronald Brown, a Temple University pediatric psychology professor who headed an American Psychological Association committee that examined the issue, told The St. Petersburg Times last year. “The bottom line is that the use of psychiatric medications far exceeds the evidence of safety and effectiveness.”…