Still a big problem within our country, obesity is now one of the medications prescribed for children could be a factor in their weight gain. Almost one-third of adolescents and children who were administered some of the common antipsychotic drugs for the first time became overweight or obese in as little as 11 weeks, which in turn increased their risk for diabetes and heart disease.
Researchers said that doctors who prescribe these antipsychotics to children should carefully weigh the benefits against the risks and closely monitor the children who are taking these medications. Dr. Christopher Varley and Dr. Jon McClellan from the Seattle Children’s Hospital wrote in an article for the Journal of the American Medical Association that, “These data confirm prior findings that children and adolescents are highly vulnerable to antipsychotic medication.
These results challenge the widespread use of atypical antipsychotic medications in youth.” Dr. Monica Michell, a child psychiatrist at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who did not partake in this study, said that these findings warn us and underscores the long-term possible harm that these drugs can cause. She also stated, “For children, who are not psychotic or bipolar, these medicines should be considered only as a last resort.” This study examined four of the most common antipsychotic medications used in children: Risperdal or risperidone made by Johnson & Johnson, Zyprexa or olanzapine made by Eli Lilly, Abilify or aripiprazole made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Seroquel or quetiapine made by AstraZeneca.
Dr. Christopher Correll from Zucker Hillside Hospital, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in New York, and his research team, studied approximately 272 teens and children who were between the ages of 4 to 19 that suffered from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and aggressive or disruptive behavior spectrum disorders. The participants that took Zyprexa gained an average of 18.7 pounds, those who took Seroquel gained 13.4 pounds, those who took Risperdal gained 11.7 pounds and those who took Abilify gained 9.7 pounds after approximately 11 weeks. 10 to 36 percent of those involved became overweight or obese within 11 weeks.
Correll stated, “The weight gain is dramatic and rapid” However, he said, not all of the medications performed the same. Those who showed biggest changes in their metabolic factors such as cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar, which can cause diabetes and heart problems, were the children who took Zyprexa. They also showed to have the most dramatic weight gain. Abilify, a medication that is usually not linked with weight gain in adults, but was the source of weight in the kids, but was not shown to increase blood sugar levels or cholesterol.
Correll hopes to be able to conduct more insightful research to help find out what caused these differences. He said, “We will look at genetics and look at blood samples to see what changed early on that predicted weight gain.” Only two atypical antipsychotics are currently approved for children to take, Abilify and Risperdal. Although, in June, a Food and Drug Administration panel of researchers backed the wider use of Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Pfizer’s Geodon for teens and children. At that time, most of the panel members expressed their thoughts about the elevating sales of the drugs to young people and the lack of long-term studies for safety.
The members were especially concerned about the chance that the drugs might be abused to treat other conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The FDA has still not acted on the panel’s endorsement. It is always best to speak with your physician about your child’s illness and find out what is the best solution, while keeping the immediate and long term effects of the medications in mind.