NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 21, 2006

Since the mid-1990s, physicians have prescribed an increasing number of antipsychotic medications to children -- in many cases for off-label uses such as the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other behavioral problems -- according to a study published in the latest issue of the journal Ambulatory Pediatrics.

William Cooper, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital, and colleagues analyzed data on children (average age, 13 years) who participated in national health surveys from 1995 to 2002; the surveys involved medications prescribed during 119,752 physician visits.

The researchers found:

  • The rate of children prescribed antipsychotic medications increased from 8.6 per 1,000 in 1995 to almost 40 per 1,000 in 2002.
  • In 2002, physicians issued 2.5 million prescriptions for antipsychotic medications, with more than half of those for the treatment of ADHD and other nonpsychotic problems.

Cooper says that he has concerns about the results of the study because " looks like these medications are being used for large numbers of children in a setting where we don't know if they work."

Daniel Safer, a psychiatrist affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, attributed the increase in prescriptions of antipsychotic medication to children in part to marketing campaigns for treatments such as Zyprexa and Risperdal.

Source: Lindsey Tanner, "More Kids Are Getting Anti-Psychotic Drugs," South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 16, 2006.


Browse more articles on Health Issues