A new research study at the University of Virginia is investigating the use of antipsychotic medications in pediatrics. These drugs are very powerful, and they are designed to help treat serious mental disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder in adults. Researchers were looking at whether the right drugs were being prescribed at the right time, and whether these medications were being over prescribed. Associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics David Rettew, M.D. stated “There are risks associated with using these medicines. At the same time, I think they’ve saved lives.” The research findings examine the process of clinical decision making that pediatricians engage in when prescribing medications for pediatric patients. In recent years there has been an increase in the use of antipsychotic medications in pediatric patients, and these prescribing practices often veer from the drug guidelines.
Many antipsychotic medications have to be tested or approved for use in pediatric, and the research shows that off label usage can be high with this class of drugs and children and adolescents. According to Dr. Rettew, who is the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families and Pediatric Psychiatry Clinic at the University of Vermont Medical Center director “Part of our concern is that these medicines may be getting pulled out too early in the treatment planning for things like oppositional behavior, ahead of things like behavioral therapy that could be tried first. I’m not anti-antipsychotics; I just want to make sure they’re used very carefully. These findings could help us design a game plan for measures to improve best-practice prescribing.”