The number of children who are taking antipsychotic drugs has risen sharply, a new study has found.
Research at the University of London’s Pharmacy School found 595 children in Britain were prescribed antipsychotics in 1992, a rate of less than four per 10,000 children.
But by 2005, that figure had risen to 2,917 children – a rate of seven per 10,000, Fariz Rani, the lead author, said.
Most of the drugs prescribed were not officially approved for children, with the most common being those to treat autism and hyperactivity, the study found.
Side effects including weight gain and heart trouble have been reported and there is little long-term evidence that they are safe, the authors claimed.
“This highlights the need for long-term safety investigations and ongoing clinical monitoring, particularly if the prescribing rate of these medicines continues to rise,” they said.
One of the most commonly used drugs is Risperdal, a schizophrenia drug sometimes used to treat irritability and aggression in autism.
These figures still put the UK well behind the US in the numbers of children being treated with the drugs.
The study, based on the health records of more than 16,000 children, is published in the May edition of the journal Paediatrics.
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