Antidepressant Use Rising Among Kids

A November 18, 2004 Reuters News story with the above headline starts off by noting that according to a new study doctors are prescribing more antidepressants for children and adolescents although there is little evidence about their safety or efficacy in youngsters.

Dr. Ian Wong of the Centre for Paediatric Pharmacy Research at the University of London was one of several researchers who conducted the study. They compared prescribing trends in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico by using information from an international database that contains a representative sample of medical practitioners in each country. Dr. Wong noted that Britain had the highest rate of increase with 68 percent while Germany, with 13 percent, had the lowest. He commented, "The number of prescriptions in different countries for children with mental illness is increasing."

Dr. Wong did note that the rate of increase in England was higher because the number of children that were taking antidepressants was low compared to the United States. "In England, the number of prescriptions per child for that kind of illness is actually 10 times lower than in America. When you have a very low baseline the increase is much quicker," Dr. Wong said.

The article noted that earlier this year New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer accused drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline Plc in a lawsuit of fraudulently suppressing information about its antidepressant Paxil, which is sold as Seroxat in Europe. The lawsuit claimed that the drug was broadly ineffective in youngsters and could increase the risks of suicidal behavior.

Wong and his colleagues concluded, "We believe the use of psychotropic medications in children is a global public health issue, which should be studied in partnership with pharmaceutical companies, governments and researchers."