The Overmedication of Vulnerable Youth with Psychiatric Medication: Boon for the Pharma Industry

by Vicki Martin, MD
March 13, 2014

In the past decade, much concern has been raised about the increasing, excessive and inappropriate use of off-label psychiatric medications for children. In addition, the use of medication cocktails (polypharmacy) has become increasing common in child psychiatry. These medications have significant potential for harm. Many have serious, long-term side effects such as weight gain, obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, movement disorders, seizures, cardiac arrhythmias, neurological disorders, gynecomastia in boys, violence and suicide.

Several medication-related deaths have been reported in the past ten years. In 2006, the Food and Drug administration (FDA) received reports of at least 29 children dying and at least 165 more suffering serious side effects in which an antipsychotic was listed as the “primary suspect.” That was a substantial jump from 2000, when there were at least 10 deaths and 85 serious side effects among children linked to the drugs. Since reporting of bad drug effects is mostly voluntary, these numbers likely represent a fraction of the toll.

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