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Youths With ADHD May Be Prescribed Unnecessary Antipsychotics: Study

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A new study questions the use of powerful psychotropic drugs often prescribed to children and young adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including antipsychotics and antidepressants, despite the youths not having any other mental illnesses. 

Canadian researchers report that about 12% of youths in Ontario with ADHD are prescribed antipsychotics, and the most common antipsychotic prescribed to children with ADHD was Risperdal, which comes with a number of serious side effects.

In a study published last week in the The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, researchers looked at data on more than 250,000 medical records from youths from age 1 to 24 in Ontario, Canada. The research indicates the prevalence of ADHD among the youths was 5.4%, with far more males being diagnosed than females.

According to the findings, 11.9% of ADHD patients were prescribed antipsychotics, with Risperdal being the most commonly prescribed. By comparison, only 0.9% of youths who did not have ADHD were prescribed antipsychotics. Antidepressants were prescribed to nearly 20% of ADHD patients, compared to only 5.4% of those without ADHD.

“In this study, the only predictor found for antipsychotics was psychiatric consultation, which is surprising,” the researchers noted. “Psychosis is very low in this population (below 1%) and does not appear to explain the use of antipsychotics.”

The researchers said that the involvement of psychiatrists suggests that those children may be more likely to have other psychiatric problems. However, they noted that the adverse side effects linked to antipsychotics, like Risperdal, such as affects on metabolism, as well as the lack of evidence for their beneficial effect on ADHD call for further exploration of this practice.

Risperdal Side Effects

Risperdal (risperidone) is a powerful drug that also comes with a number of potential side effects, raising questions about the unnecessary use of the drug. Users are known to experience increased weight gain, as well as a potential risk of diabetes. In addition, boys and young men have reported experiencing male breast growth from Risperdal side effects, developing a medical condition known as gynecomastia.

Johnson & Johnson currently faces several thousand Risperdal lawsuits filed by young men and families nationwide, alleging that the drug maker withheld information from consumers and the medical community about the risks associated with use of the antipsychotic. In many cases, the users required surgical breast removal due to gynecomastia.

Over the past year, a number of “bellwether” cases have gone to trial in Pennsylvania state court, with several resulting in massive verdicts as a result of the drug maker’s failure to warn. In July 2016, the family of a five year old Tennessee boy was awarded $70 million in damages, with other prior verdicts including $500,000 in December 2015, $1.75 million in November 2015 and $2.5 million in February 2015.

Although a few Risperdal settlements have been reached on individual cases set for trial, since the drug maker has not resolved large numbers of claims, additional bellwether trials are expected over the next year involving allegations that youths never would have been prescribed the drug if they had been aware of the potential side effects.

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