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Children who take antidepressants like Paxil, Celexa or Zoloft, may face an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to the findings of a new study.
While the overall risk is small, a report published this month in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry indicates that it is higher than adolescents who don’t take the popular antidepressants.
Harvard researchers conducted a national pediatric study of more than 1.5 million publicly and privately insured patients, ages 10 to 19 years old, with a prescription for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) as treatment for depression.
The study identified 316,000 patients using SSRIs in the MAX database, and 211,000 patients in the MarketScan database, with at least two SSRI prescriptions filled.
According to the findings, side effects of SSRI antidepressants were linked with a small increased risk of childhood diabetes, particularly among publicly insured patients. SSRI treatment in publicly insured adolescents was linked with a 13% increased risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to untreated patients. Teens who continuously used SSRIs, filling one or more prescriptions every three months, had a 33% increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The findings suggest there may be 6.6 additional cases of diabetes per 10,000 adolescent or teen patients treated for at least 2 years. However, for privately insured young patients, the risk increase was statistically insignificant.
Prior studies have shown a link between SSRI antidepressants and diabetes among adults. Children and teens are often excluded from clinical trials for ethical reasons, but concerns regarding the association have long been suspected.
In this new report the researchers used data from existing adolescent prescription use and off-label use of SSRIs.
The link between SSRIs and diabetes was not as significant as researchers initially anticipated. But the data did show cause for concern among children and teen antidepressant users.
As more and more adolescents suffer from depression and other anxiety disorders the use of SSRIs in this population has increased. SSRIs are also associated with modest weight gain as a side effect, which may be a contributing factor. Researchers recommended doctors weigh the benefits along with the risks when prescribing antidepressants to adolescents.
“These findings suggest that children and adolescents initiating SSRI treatment may be at a small increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, particularly publicly insured patients,” the researchers concluded. “The potential small risk should be viewed in relation to the efficacy of SSRIs for its major indications in young patients.”