Questions Arise About Kids’ Use of Psychiatric Drugs
Growing payments to doctors have coincided with an increase in pediatric prescriptions for atypical antipsychotics, a new class of medications used to treat behavioral problems, the New York Times reports.
Drugs in the best-selling class of antipsychotics -- which includes Risperdal, Seroquel, Zyprexa, Abilify and Geodon -- are being prescribed to more than 500,000 U.S. children "to help parents deal with behavior problems despite profound risks and almost no approved uses for minors," the Times reports.
The Times conducted an analysis of records in Minnesota, the only state that requires public reports of all drug company marketing payments to doctors. The analysis found that from 1997 to 2005, more than one-third of Minnesota's licensed psychiatrists took money from drug manufacturers, including the last eight presidents of the Minnesota Psychiatric Society.
The analysis found that from 2000 to 2005, drug maker payments to Minnesota psychiatrists increased more than sixfold to $1.6 million. During the same period, prescriptions of antipsychotics for children in Minnesota's Medicaid program rose more than ninefold, the Times analysis found.
The analysis also found that doctors "who took the most money from makers of atypicals tended to prescribe the drugs to children the most often," the Times reports. Further, Minnesota psychiatrists who received at least $5,000 from manufacturers of atypicals from 2000 to 2005 appear to have written three times as many atypical prescriptions for children as psychiatrists who received less or no money.
The analysis found that payments to individual psychiatrists ranged from $51 to more than $689,000, with a median of $1,750.
According to the Times, because the records are "incomplete, these figures probably underestimate doctors' actual incomes." The Times notes that "[n]o one has proved that psychiatrists prescribe atypicals to children because of drug company payments" (Harris et al., New York Times, 5/10).