- CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Reuters) - Researchers Saturday questioned the
widespread use of Prozac-like drugs to treat mild or moderate mental illness
in children despite lack of scientific evidence about their safety or effectiveness.
- More than 500,000 prescriptions a year
are written for the newest class of antidepressant drugs -- SSRIs, or serotonin
selective reuptake inhibitors -- without scientific evidence of the drugs'
safety and effectiveness in children, University of North Carolina at Chapel
Hill researcher Jerry Rushton said.
- ``Our survey data suggests that despite
a lack of research support, adequate training and comfort with the management
of depression, SSRI's are gaining physician acceptance and becoming incorporated
into primary care practice,'' Rushton said in a statement released by the
- Rushton, who presented results of a survey
of physicians' prescription practices Saturday to a pediatric medical conference
in San Francisco, said SSRIs now account for 69 percent of prescriptions
written to treat childhood depression.
- He said Prozac, the most-commonly prescribed
SSRI for children, may be following Ritalin as the drug of choice in the
controversial treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Approved by the Food and Drug Administration
for patients over 18 years of age, SSRIs also are being prescribed for
children to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggression- conduct disorder
and even bed-wetting, he said.
- Rushton said the effects of ``psychoactive''
drugs like SSRIs on developing central nervous system are still unknown,
and the drugs have been documented to cause sleep disturbances and behavioral
changes in children.
- ``I think these medications are starting
to show promise,'' he said. ``However, they should be used with caution
and monitored closely, not used haphazardly for transient symptoms -- not
for school problems or nebulous behavioral problems.''
- Children Being Prescribed Adult
- By Norman Hermant CBC TV 5-2-99
- TORONTO - A whole family of pharmaceuticals
originally developed to treat depression in adults are now being used to
help manage a wide range of mental illness in all ages.
- Prozac and other anti- depressants are
being prescribed to a growing number of children. There are no Canadian
statistics. But in the U.S,, the drugs are prescribed to half a million
children a year.
- A new report just released. surveyed
nearly 600 U.S. family doctors and paediatricians. Seventy-two per cent
said they had prescribed prozac-like drugs for patients under 18.
- Two-thirds of those prescriptions were
for depression. But there were also many prescriptions for things such
as attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity, even bedwetting.
- It's not known what long term effects
these drugs will have on children. There are no clear age or dosage guidelines
because nearly all of the tests have been done on adults.
- But Canadian psychiatrist Dr. Leigh Soloman
says when they are used responsibly and in the proper circumstances, antidepressants
can be a lifeline. "If a child is truly depressed, I think they deserve
the best treatment that we have to offer. And while medication would not
be the first thing that is offered, it is part of the comprehensive treatment."
- The debate is reminiscent of the controversy
surrounding the drug Ritalin, which is commonly prescribed for hyperactivity.
There's growing concern it is being taken by far too many children.
- This latest report raises the same questions
about other drugs being prescribed for children.