Sacramento Bee Series Examines Prescription Drug Use in Children
The Sacramento Bee this week published a three-day series on the increased number of children who take prescription drugs and the "discrepancy between how little is known about the ways these drugs affect children and how much they are being used." Summaries of the three articles, based on a three-month investigation conducted by Bee medical writer Dorsey Griffith, appear below.
- "Pills or Patience": The article examines the "range of opinions" on the use of psychiatric medications to treat children with behavioral problems. Although some mental health experts oppose the practice, others argue that the medications provide effective treatment for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. The article also reports on the increased number of prescriptions for ADHD treatments, a trend that has prompted a "backlash" to limit their use (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 6/23).
- "Walking a Medical Tightrope": The article points out that the medications prescribed to children often do not have FDA approval for use in children, "making the recommended treatment something of a one-child experiment." Although doctors can prescribe the medications to children, they often must "search for the right medication in the right dosages." At the same time, pharmaceutical companies often do not conduct pediatric safety studies on new treatments (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 6/24).
- "Treating Obesity": The article examines the increasing use of obesity treatments, which may become popular for overweight children as a "quick-fix," according to some experts. The FDA has approved two obesity medications -- Xenical and Meridia -- for use in individuals ages 16 and older, but pharmaceutical companies have begun studies to test their safety and efficacy in children as young as 12. The medications have "vast money-making potential" for the pharmaceutical industry, but according to critics, improved diet and exercise represent more effective treatments for obesity in children (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 6/25).