Antipsychotic drugs can markedly improve schizophrenia and other mental disorders, but they may come with a hefty cost, especially in kids. A study released this week found that children and teens treated with antipsychotics gained significant weight in less than 3 months, potentially putting them at increased risk of obesity and heart problems. These results prompted experts to call for more caution when it comes to treating children with these drugs.
There has been an increased use of antipsychotics in children in recent years, which is concerning because most of these drugs are not approved for use in children. In addition, the drugs can have serious side effects, such as abnormal limb and body movements, seizures, and rapid heart beat. These drugs are also sometimes prescribed off label. Antipsychotics were also the highest earning class of drugs last year, racking up $14.6 billion.
The researchers who conducted the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said kids should be monitored more frequently for weight gain and other factors when starting on antipsychotics. And two physicians with Children’s Hospital in Seattle—Christopher Varley and Jon McClellan—wrote in an accompanying editorial that the weight gain seen in the children and its potential to lead to obesity and other problems should prompt doctors to reconsider using these drugs in children and teens.
Approximately 10 to 36 percent of the children receiving the antipsychotics gained enough weight to be considered overweight or obese. Those on olanzapine (Zyprexia) and quetiapine (Seroquel) also had significant increases in cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
—Steve Mitchell, associate editor, Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs
To learn more about antipsychotics, check out our free Best Buy Drugs report and find out which treatments are most effective for schizophrenia (subscribers only).