ANTIDEPRESSANTS: MDs Question Use in Children
Children and adolescents are increasingly being treated with antidepressants for a range of "mild or moderate mental illness," pediatric researchers said Saturday, underscoring the need for careful monitoring, Reuters/Los Angeles Times reports. Pediatrician Dr. Jerry Rushton of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine said at a Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Francisco that while serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are approved for adults, the drugs are "gaining physician acceptance and becoming incorporated into primary care practice" for children without scientific evidence of their safety and efficacy for younger patients. SSRIs comprise 69% of all prescriptions used to treat childhood depression, he said, adding that Prozac falls just behind Ritalin as the most-prescribed drug for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (5/2). Rushton surveyed 600 family physicians about their prescribing patterns and found that 72% reported prescribing an SSRI to patients under age 18, and 67% said they routinely prescribe SSRIs for mild to moderate childhood depression. Only 8% of respondents said they "received appropriate training for treating childhood depression," and a mere 16% "said they felt comfortable treating the disorder in children and adolescents." Ray Woosley of Georgetown University Medical Center said that while the drugs are "probably ... generally safe for childhood depression," researchers know little about their long-term effects. Without adequate drug trials on children, he said, "physicians are faced with the difficult task of prescribing without information on side effects and proper dosing" (Friend, USA Today, 5/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.