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Psychiatric Medications Increase Risk of Diabetes for Children: Study

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New research raises additional concerns about the safety of certain psychiatric drugs commonly given to children, such as Abilify, Risperdal and others, indicating that side effects of the medications may increase the risk of childhood diabetes. 

In a study published in the September 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, researchers indicate that children given psychiatric drugs may face triple the risk of developing diabetes, when compared to children who do not take the medications.

Researchers used data from national Danish registries, involving 48,299 children and adolescents presenting with psychiatric disorders, and then looked to see which children were later prescribed oral diabetes medications, like metformin, for type 2 diabetes.

The study found that children and adolescents given psychiatric drugs had an absolute diabetes risk of 0.72%, compared to only 0.27% among children not given the drugs.

Girls were found to be more susceptible to type 2 diabetes after being put on antipsychotic medications, according to the findings. Researchers also determined that the type of mental disorder had no effect on the diabetes risk, ruling out the disorders themselves as the cause.

“The use of antipsychotic drug treatment can be necessary for some of the psychiatric disorders diagnosed in children and adolescents,” said lead researcher Dr. Rene Ernst Nielsen in a press release. “This study underscores the importance of following the current guidelines that antipsychotics should only be used in children and adolescents when other evidence-based and safer treatment options have been exhausted.”

Previous studies have raised concerns about the link between diabetes and psychiatric medications for children, particularly involving a newer class of the drugs, known as atypical antipsychotics, such as Abilify, Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa and other popular medications.

In August 2013, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry found that side effects of psychiatric drugs tripled the risk of type 2 diabetes in children.

The findings come during an ongoing government investigation into the increasing number of children being prescribed antipsychotics. The investigation was launched by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Both older antipsychotics and newer atypical antipsychotics are included in the investigation. Some of those drugs have actually been approved for treatment of children with behavior disorders, such as bipolar and schizophrenia, while others are often prescribed “off-label” by doctors, for indications that have not been approved by the FDA as safe and effective.

Doctors and parents have raised concerns that the drugs are being overused to treat behavioral problems, unnecessarily exposing children to the risk of side effects from antipsychotics.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that can have devastating health consequences for a child over the remainder of their life. This may require adherence to a diabetes diet and various medications or insulin therapy, posing an increased risk of complications associated with the disease.

Last month, an Abilify lawsuit was filed by a woman who alleges she developed diabetes after using the psychotic medication when she was 15 years old. The complaint alleges that side effects of Abilify, which is one of the most widely used atypical antipsychotics, increases the risk of diabetes for children 7.72 percent above normal.

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