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Why Are Kids Getting So Many Psych Meds? Profit Drives Prescriptions

In a fascinating article on TIME today, we get a dark look at the world of atypical antipsychotics. These drugs are designed to medicate schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but they’re being used to treat a host of other issues.

Why? There’s strong evidence that drug companies are pushing the drugs because they bring in a tidy profit. The big pharma companies are paying out the largest legal settlements in history for illegally marketing these drugs, but children and the elderly are still taking them at an alarming rate. TIME’s research into why is as scary as it is important.

The bottom line seems to be that kids are given these drugs because they can’t say no to them, and drug companies rake in huge profits on their sale.

Atypical antipsychotics are big money. They’re not as common as garden-variety antidepressants, but because most are still on patent they make big money for their makers. They bring in more money than any other class of drugs in America, according to TIME.

The illnesses they are approved to treat affect only about 3 percent of the population, but prescriptions for these drugs cover a multitude of other things. Kids are given atypical antipsychotics for everything from PTSD to ADHD. The ADHD prescriptions in particular seem problematic. As TIME puts it:

Pharmacologically, the ADHD prescriptions make no sense: FDA-approved drugs for the condition raise levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine, while antipsychotics do they opposite, lowering them.

If these drugs do the opposite of what ADHD drugs are intended to do, why do 45 percent of kids with ADHD take them?

The answer may well be drug company marketing. In a study of medication in juvenile detention facilities, they found that one third of doctors take money from drug companies. Those same doctors write over half the prescriptions for antipsychotic drugs.

These drugs can be lifesaving for those suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But they shouldn’t be taken lightly. Side effects can include weight gain, diabetes, and lethargy. The meds may also affect brain development.

It’s hard to believe this kind of overprescribing is allowed to go unchecked. The TIME piece goes into more detail than I can about why drug companies get away with this. The point is that they do. If your kid is taking an atypical antipsychotic, you may need to have a long talk with your child’s doctors about why and what the risks are.

Photo: e-Magine Art

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