Children on Medicaid often Juggle Risperdal and other Psychotropic Meds, Study Suggests

Published on August 5, 2014 by Sandy Liebhard

More children in the Medicaid program are being prescribed second-generation antipsychotics like Risperdal simultaneously with stimulants, anti-depressants and other medications, according to a recent study.

The results of research published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry finds that use of second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs) has increased significantly in children between the ages of 6 and 18 on Medicaid.

Findings of the study were obtained after a four-year look at psychiatric treatment data from 2004 until 2008, and found an increasing amount of prescriptions written for stimulants, antidepressants and mood stabilizers in conjunction with Risperdal or another SGA. Researchers found that use of these medications increased by 22 percent over the period, and that 85 percent of patients taking this type of drug was doing so with another psychotropic medication. In fact, the likelihood of a child taking Risperdal or another treatment with a stimulant was shown to be 0.22, and 0.52 for mood-stabilizers. Patients taking both drug types were also shown to do so for long durations, research found.

Risperdal, other Antipsychotics Prescribed to Treat Children with Depression, ADHD

But was this combination beneficial to patients, and more importantly, was it necessary? Psychiatric treatments were frequently given to patients outside the hospital, who had no intellectual disability, and were not diagnosed with severe attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The highest amount of SGA scripts were given to Medicaid children and those in foster care.

Although researchers were aware that use of Risperdal and other drugs was on the rise, they were surprised to find that some psychiatric conditions were more likely to incite SGA usage.

“We knew that antipsychotic use was increasing among youth, but were surprised to learn just how often children with ADHD or depression receive an antipsychotic as part of their treatment, and when they do, it is for sustained periods of time,” said one of the study’s researchers, a co-director of the Policy Lab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Given that hundreds of Risperdal lawsuit filings involve children who took the medication, one may wonder how these findings will affect the mounting antipsychotic drug litigation.

According to claims, use of this particular medication led to the development of male breasts, a condition known as gynecomastia, in young boys being treated for psychiatric conditions.

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