Alarm over rate of drugs for kids
Reports this week claim that powerful anti-psychotic medication is being overprescribed to Australian children.
The ABC says it has obtained figures showing an alarmingly-high rate of anti-psychotic prescriptions being written for Australian children, but some experts say it could be a sign of more active awareness and response to mental issues.
More than 100,000 anti-psychotic prescriptions were written for local children in 2013, the reports say, and despite having a range of approved usages, “many are prescribed ‘off-label’ by doctors” they claim,
Anti-psychotics are often used for conditions such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, but recent years have seen a rise in use for children with high levels of aggressive behaviour or symptoms of autism.
The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) says there are many legitimate reasons to give these medications to children.
“Sometimes we do see kids who have aggressive and behaviour problems who've had a range of many other treatments and sometimes they do benefit from anti-psychotic treatment,” RANZCP child and adolescent psychiatry chair Dr Nick Kowalenko told reporters.
“And that would be off label treatment.”
“Our main concern as child psychiatrists [would be] that the majority of these prescriptions are provided by GPs and by paediatricians,” he said.
“They should not be substitute for a comprehensive treatment approach.”
But still, child psychiatrist Jon Jureidini has been one of the most out-spoken critics of overprescription.
“We should make no mistake about these drugs – they are dangerous drugs,” he said.
“[Their use for children is] definitely experimental because it’s not being based on any clear evidence of benefit or lack of harm.
“There's nothing wrong with using drugs experimentally as long as you're open and honest about that.
“I think for we doctors... unfortunately we're too much influenced by the pharmaceutical industry and their key opinion leaders,” Dr Jureidini said.