Ohio Initiative Targets Overuse of Risperdal, Other Antipsychotics in Children

Published on February 13, 2014 by Sandy Liebhard

Ohio Minds Matter, an initiative launched by the state just 18 months ago, is seeking to curb the use of Risperdal and other antipsychotic drugs in children enrolled in Medicaid, as well as those in foster care. According to a report from the Akron Beacon, Ohio Minds Matter has already launched three regional pilot programs to educate primary-care doctors, parents and others about the best use of psychiatric medications.

According to the group, Risperdal and other atypical antipsychotics are a particular focus of Ohio’s efforts. While they may be helpful in reducing extreme aggression and other behavioral problems in children, they carry serious risks including weight gain, diabetes, and breast development in boys.  It should be noted that when it comes to children, Risperdal and similar drugs are only approved to treat bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and irritability in certain autistic patients. Though this class of medications is increasingly used to curb aggressive behavior in children with ADHD, this is an off-label use which hasn’t been evaluated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

According to the Akron Beacon, 1.3% of children covered by Medicaid are currently prescribed antipsychotic drugs. By contrast, fewer than 1% of children enrolled in private insurance programs take these medications. National studies have also shown as many as 22 percent of children in foster care take at least one psychiatric medication.

In regards to atypical antipsychotics, Ohio Minds Matter is aiming for a 25% reduction in the use of these drugs among children younger than 6 who are enrolled in Medicaid. The group is also seeking a similar reduction in the number of Medicaid-eligible children of any age who use two or more atypical antipsychotic drugs for more than two months.

Risperdal Lawsuits Claim Drug was Improperly Marketed for Children

Risperdal is also the subject of more than 200 product liability lawsuits that that have been filed in Pennsylvania State Court on behalf of people who allegedly suffered gynecomastia (male breast growth), diabetes and other serious side effects due to its use. Many of these Risperdal lawsuit filings were brought on behalf of children who allegedly experienced these problems after being exposed to the medication. Among other things, the complaints claim that the manufacturers of Risperdal improperly promoted it for pediatric uses long before the FDA cleared it for such indications.

The U.S. Department of Justice made similar claims about the marketing of Risperdal and other medications in a lawsuit it pursued against the drug’s makers. That case was resolved last November when Johnson & Johnson and its Janssen Pharmaceuticals division agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle the charges. While the companies did admit to improperly promoting Risperdal for use in elderly dementia patients, there was no admission of wrongdoing in resolving the charges that pertained to children.

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