A study has found that certain antipsychotic drugs may raise the risk of developing diabetes when used in children and teens. The drugs are called second-generation antipsychotics and they can raise the risk of developing diabetes by about 50%.
The risk of diabetes also appears to be elevated when the young person is taking both a second-generation antipsychotic and an antidepressant.
Researchers at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's PolicyLab gathered data on more than 1.3 million children between the ages of 10 and 18 who were enrolled in Medicaid between 2005 and 2007 and who were diagnosed with a mental health issue. PolicyLab develops evidence-based solutions for health-related issues affecting children.
This finding of an elevated risk needs to be taken seriously, said David Rubin, MD, the study's lead author and co-director of PolicyLab, but that it should not cause an over-reaction. Baseline risks for diabetes in children should be taken into account. The baseline risk for diabetes among children aged 10 to 18 who did not take antipsychotics was 1 in 400. The risk rose to 1 in 260 in those taking antipsychotics, and was at most to 1 in 200 in those taking antipsychotics and antidepressants.
The study recommended that clinicians and families who are making medication decisions for children periodically re-evaluate the treatment strategy to address challenging behaviors.
Antipsychotic drugs are used to treat mental and behavioral health disorders, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and for those children who display very aggressive behavior. However, they are being used more frequently to treat children and teens whose mental and behavioral problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, are not as serious.
There is evidence that Medicaid-enrolled children are far more likely to be prescribed antipsychotic medications than children who are privately insured. More than 25% of Medicaid-enrolled children receiving prescription medications for behavioral problems were prescribed antipsychotics by 2008, largely for less severe disorders. Previous studies from PolicyLab have found that 1 in 3 young people who are enrolled in Medicaid and who take an antipsychotic are also taking an antidepressant.