Tranquillisers putting children’s lives at risk
Anti-psychotics may cause long-term harm, say critics
Youngsters under 6 being given unlicensed drugs
Sarah Boseley, health editor
Monday April 7 2008
New evidence has shown children’s lives are being put at risk by a surge in the use of controversial tranquillizing drugs which are being prescribed to control their behaviour, the Guardian has learned.
The anti-psychotic drugs are being given to youngsters under the age of six even though the drugs have no licence for use in children except in certain schizophrenia cases, the report says.
The number of children on the drugs has doubled since the early 1990s as the
The first comprehensive analysis, carried out by Ian Wong, professor of paediatric medicines research at the London School of Pharmacy, suggests the number of children on the drugs has surged sharply.
His analysis, to be published next month in the
Twice as many prescriptions were given to children for the drugs in 2005 as in 1992, with the biggest increase in the seven to 12 age group, where the number of anti-psychotics prescribed trebled. The largest category of use by far is in cases of behavioural disorders and personality disorders, including bipolar disorder (manic depression), autism and hyperactivity.
Although the drugs are not licensed for children, doctors can prescribe them on their own responsibility.
The increase follows a huge rise in the use of the drugs in children in the
Some of the children of whose deaths he is aware had underlying incurable conditions such as Aids, so it is hard to establish whether the drugs played any part.
David Healy, professor of psychological medicine at
The drugs have potentially serious and harmful side-effects which need to be balanced against any benefit for the child or its parents. These include substantial weight gain and tardive dyskinesia (uncontrollable tongue and facial movements).
The drug watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority, is concerned about the use of such drugs without evidence to prove they are safe in children, but unless the manufacturers conduct trials, its hands are tied.