By Gardiner Harris
November 20, 2008
WASHINGTON: Powerful antipsychotic medicines are being used far too cavalierly in children, and U.S. drug regulators must do more to warn doctors of their substantial risks, a panel of U.S. government drug experts said Tuesday.
More than 389,000 children and teenagers were treated last year with Risperdal, one of five popular medicines known as atypical antipsychotics. Of those patients, 240,000 were 12 or younger, according to data presented to the committee. In many cases, the drug was prescribed to treat attention deficit disorders.
But Risperdal is not approved for attention deficit problems, and its risks — which include substantial weight gain, metabolic disorders and muscular tics that can be permanent — are too profound to justify its use in treating such disorders, panel members said.
"This committee is frustrated," said Leon Dure, a pediatric neurologist from the University of Alabama School of Medicine who was on the panel. "And we need to find a way to accommodate this concern of ours."
The meeting on Tuesday was scheduled to be a routine review of the pediatric safety of Risperdal and Zyprexa, popular antipsychotic medicines made, respectively, by Johnson & Johnson and Eli Lilly & Company. Food and Drug Administration officials proposed that the committee endorse the agency's routine monitoring of the safety of the medicines in children and support its previous efforts to highlight the drugs' risk.