Many young children taking drugs for severe psychiatric problems such as autism, schizophrenia, tics, severe bipolar disorder and aggressive behavior, are gaining weight and increasing bad cholesterol levels, according to researchers in this published study.
The dilemma presents a Catch-22 - should young people experiencing suicidal behavior be treated with drugs causing weight gain and an increase of fat in the blood that can lead to long-term health problems?
In this study, researchers from Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, New York, monitored 272 children taking the four drugs in a class known as atypical antipsychotics, a second generation psychiatric drugs.
Included were Zyprexa (olanzapine), Seroquel (quetiapine), Risperdal (risperidone), or Abilify (aripiprazole). So far the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the latter two for use in children.
The young patients were between the ages of four and 19 and the majority were receiving drugs for severe problems for the first time. 15 others did not take the drugs.
After 11 weeks, the patients had gained anywhere from 10 to 19 pounds on average. Zyprexa takers gained the most on average and Abilify users the least.
Additionally the Zyprexa patients showed higher LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, indicating more fat in the blood. Seroquel patients had higher triglycerides as well.
The degree of weight gain is alarming,” said Dr. Wayne K. Goodman, head of a FDA advisory panel on the drugs last summer and chairman of psychiatry at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan.
“The magnitude is stunning,” he said to the New York Times.
Further study is needed to see if weight gain continues or levels off after years of use, which many patients experience.
US News reports many patients lose weight when they come off the drugs. The theory is that the drugs may block the signal of satiety.
The FDA is considering approving all four drugs for children suffering from certain severe psychiatric problems. Antipsychotics are considered industry blockbusters with combined sales of $12.7 for the most popular.
The study was published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
An editorial says that “ominous long-term health implications” can result from rapid weight gain and changes in blood fat, especially early in life, and challenge the widespread use of atypical antipsychotics in children.
Last year Canadian researchers found that elderly patients who are given antipsychotic drugs are three times as likely to experience serious health problems or death within a month of use, compared to those patients not given the drugs. #