Risperdal, Abilify Overprescribed to Foster Children for ADHD: Study

Researchers from the University of Maryland indicate that an unusual number of foster children and teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are being prescribed Risperdal, Abilify and other atypical antipsychotics, raising concerns about the overprescription of the drugs for children.

In a study published online in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, researchers warn that the trend in prescribing Abilify, Risperdal and other antipsychotics to children appears to be linked to socio-economic status and not good medical standards or science.

Researchers looked at data on more than a quarter million youths between the ages of two and 17 who are enrolled in a state Medicaid program. They also looked at children who were diagnosed with ADHD, but no other mental issues.

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Side effects of Risperdal linked to risk of breast growth among young boys, or gynecomastia.


The study found that about three times as many children who are in foster care and who have ADHD were prescribed antipsychotics; the most common used being Risperdal, followed by Abilify and Seroquel.

These medications are not approved for use in treating ADHD, but the study suggests that a number of groups of children in lower socio-economic groups are being prescribed Risperdal, Abilify, Seroquel and other similar drugs at a higher rate than their more advantaged peers.

“Compared with family-income Medicaid-eligible youth, foster care youth had a threefold greater atypical antipsychotic use across age groups,” the researchers concluded. “Atypical antipsychotic use for off-label behavioral conditions such as ADHD now accounts for the majority of antipsychotic-treated youth with Medicaid coverage, raising short- and long-term safety concerns in the absence of sufficient efficacy data to justify potentially severe treatment-emergent adverse events.”

The researchers recommended a monitoring system be used to make certain that children are being properly prescribed antipsychotic medications.

Risperdal (risperidone) is an atypical antipsychotic medication originally introduced for adults with schizophrenia. However, the medication has been widely used by children for bi-polar disorders, autism, irritability, aggression and behavior disorders.

In recent years, Johnson & Johnson has been facing an increasing number of Risperdal gynecomastia lawsuits, which allege that the drug maker failed to adequately warn consumers or the medical community about the risk that boys and young men taking the medication could face an increased risk of gynecomastia diagnosis following Risperdal use.

Some complaints allege that boys developed breasts measuring as large as a 38D cup size, with many plaintiffs requiring breast removal surgery. In addition to the physical damages, plaintiffs allege that the psychological effects of Risperdal breast growth can have a devastating impact on the boys, greatly impacting their overall quality of life.

Concerns have also been raised in recent years about the risk of childhood diabetes from Abilify and other atypical antipsychotic medications. According to an August 2013 study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry, side effects of Abilify, Risperdal and other similar drugs may triple risk of diabetes for children. The threat extended to all classes of antipsychotics, the researchers warned.


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