Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Should drug cocktails be prescribed for children?


The New York Times / Medco Health Solutions

The New York Times published this story about psychiatric medication for children some time ago. I've been meaning to post it before the story and the chart (click to enlarge) disappear into the Times pay-per-view archives. The graphic vividly illustrates the rapidly growing practice of prescribing multiple-drug combinations of psychiatric medications to children.
But a growing number of children and teenagers in the United States are taking not just a single drug for discrete psychiatric difficulties but combinations of powerful and even life-threatening medications to treat a dizzying array of problems.

Last year in the United States, about 1.6 million children and teenagers — 280,000 of them under age 10 — were given at least two psychiatric drugs in combination, according to an analysis performed by Medco Health Solutions at the request of The New York Times. More than 500,000 were prescribed at least three psychiatric drugs. More than 160,000 got at least four medications together, the analysis found.
The article throws some additional light on the issue, but doesn’t provide any conclusive answers. Are we too quick to classify behavior problems in the schools as medical problems requiring drugs? Can we really trust drug companies to care as much about our children as about their own profits? Do we really know enough about the effects of long-term use of these powerful drugs on young, developing brains, especially in combinations that sometimes seem to be tried almost at random?

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