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Risperdal, Other Antipsychotics in Children Linked to Diabetes Risk: Study

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Side effects of antipsychotics prescribed to many children, including medications such as Risperdal and Zyprexa, could increase the risk of childhood diabetes, according to the findings of a new study.  

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center published a study in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry on August 21, indicating that children and young adults using antipsychotics may face triple the risk of developing type 2 diabetes during the first year of taking the drug. Similar studies in the past have linked the drugs to an increased diabetes risk among adults.

The findings came as the result of a retrospective cohort study if the Tennessee Medicaid program and involved data on more than 40,000 patients. The study looked for patients who were newly diagnosed with diabetes after beginning atypical antipsychotic treatment.

The study found that child-aged and young adult users of antipsychotics had a threefold increased risk of type 2 diabetes within the first year of follow-up. The risk increased with cumulative dose and remained elevated for up to a year after the youths discontinued use of the antipsychotics. The researchers included atypical antipsychotics in the study and found that the increased risk was still present regardless of whether an antipsychotic was atypical or not.

Antipsychotic Use Under Investigation

The findings come amid an 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.

Concerns have also been raised about the use of some of the medications among young boys, as side effects of Risperdal have been linked to male breast growth, including a serious medical condition known as gynecomastia, which often causes a serious impact on the child’s quality of life and may result in the need for surgical breast removal.

Johnson & Johnson faces a growing number of Risperdal breast growth lawsuits filed in courts throughout the country, which allege that the drug maker failed to adequately warn users or the medical community about the risk of boys developing breasts following use of the medication. These problem are often misdiagnosed as weight gain associated with the medication, but in some cases boys have developed breasts measuring as large as a 38D cup size after using the medication.

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