Atypical Antipsychotics Linked to Worrisome Weight Gains, Other Outcomes, in Children

Yet another study has linked significant weight gains in children to some antipsychotic medication. Forbes reported that an emerging study found that weight gains of 10-to-20 pounds were not unusual in children during their first three months on the medications like <"">Zyprexa, <"">Seroquel, <"">Risperdal and <"">Abilify. Also, cholesterol, triglyceride, and other metabolic “parameters” were elevated, said Forbes.

It has long been known and we have long written about the association between weight gain and antipsychotics; however, this new study points to even deeper increases, said Forbes. Tracking 272 children, aged four to 19 ,who were initially prescribed popular antipsychotic medications between 2001 and 2007, the researchers discovered that while increases in weight were dependent on the drug, the gains appeared in the entire spectrum of atypical antipsychotic medications, reported Forbes. The study was conducted at the Zucker Hillside Hospital in Queens, New York and the findings are being published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said Forbes.

“Weight gain was pervasive even in medications usually considered to be weight neutral in adults,” said study lead Christoph Correll, an Albert Einstein College of Medicine psychiatrist, quoted Forbes. “The worry is that weight gain sustained over long periods of time can cause adverse outcomes like diabetes and heart attacks and strokes,” Correll added.

According to the research, children on Eli Lilly’s Zyprexa gained 19 pounds in three months; children taking AstraZeneca’s Seroquel, Johnson & Johnson’s Risperdal, and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Abilify gained 10 to 13 pounds in the same time frame, said Forbes. Meanwhile, Seroquel and Zyprexa were linked to “statistically significant” cholesterol level increases and Seroquel, Zyprexa, and Risperdal were found to increase triglyceride levels, added Forbes, which explained that triglycerides are fatty particles in the blood.

“It is an enormous amount of weight,” said Christopher Varley a child psychiatrist with the University of Washington School of Medicine, quoted Forbes. “It might be a time bomb about to go off, I don’t think we know the answer,” Varley added, saying that once children take these medications, “there is just a strong physiologic drive to eat more that is irresistible.” Varley wrote an accompanying editorial to the study.

A serious issue with the findings is that children are being prescribed these powerful medications for diagnoses that are not psychotic in nature, such as aggression, sleep problems, and attention deficit disorder (ADD), noted Forbes. Experts feel these children would benefit from milder drugs and counseling. Another issue is a diagnosis that is growing in popularity. Pediatric bipolar disorder can be treated with atypical antipsychotics; however, diagnosis criteria is considered weak, reported Forbes.

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