FDA Study: Prescriptions for ADHD Medications Soar
While the overall number of prescription medications for children has decreased significantly in the past decade, the number of prescriptions for ADHD medications has increased substantially.
These are the findings from a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) study that used a large national database to analyze prescription trends among children in the U.S. from 2002 to 2010. The results, published in the journal Pediatrics, found that during that time the number of prescriptions for children under age 17 went down seven percent. In contrast, prescriptions for ADHD medications increased by 46 percent. (The study tracked prescription trends, not actual use of the medications.)
Experts attribute the increase in ADHD prescriptions to a parallel upturn in ADHD diagnoses, which climbed from 4.4 million children in 2002 to 5 million in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Traditional ADHD medications such as Ritalin and Adderall account for most of the ADHD prescriptions, but researchers suggest that their use is currently stabilizing and being replaced by newer medications such as Vyvanse and Focalin.
Researchers noted that the general decrease in medications for children is largely due to fewer prescriptions for antibiotics and medications for allergies, pain, depression, colds, and coughs. Antibiotic prescriptions alone went down 14 percent, a victory for medical experts who have mounted a large-scale campaign to educate the public about the dangers of antibiotic resistance and the ineffective use of antibiotics for treating viral infections.
Antidepressant prescriptions also declined, which is believed to be the result of FDA warnings about risks associated with suicidal thoughts. Dr. Martin Stein, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine told ABC news:
The reason for the warnings was there was a two-fold increase in suicidal ideation, particularly in the first month after initiating therapy with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This trend, however, is a double-edged sword. More children are likely to attempt suicide when they are depressed if they are not appropriately treated.
In addition to the increase in ADHD prescriptions, the study found increases also in prescriptions for contraceptives and asthma as well as an upswing in acid-reflux inhibitors prescribed for infants.
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