Kentucky is the most recent state with plans to curb anti-psychotic drug prescriptions for children.
The educational program should save state Medicaid millions of dollars and is already established in 19 other states.
The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that although “atypical anti-psychotic” drugs can be used to successfully treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and autism in children, they can be inappropriately or over-prescribed.
Healthcare providers fear that substantial weight gain from the drugs, a common side effect, could lead to higher rates of Type II diabetes for young patients.
The plan will launch in early 2009 with letters to prescribers detailing the latest guidelines for appropriate use, prescription and risk.
Proponents hope to prevent patients from taking different medications simultaneously and from receiving prescriptions from multiple practitioners.
Medicaid’s medical director said over-prescribing issues are exacerbated by the dearth of child behavioral specialists in Kentucky.
Family care doctors or general practitioners there write many prescriptions and may not have the latest information regarding drug risks.
State figures show that Medicaid has spent over $40 million since 2001 filling the prescriptions of just three common atypical anti-psychotics.
During that period, prescriptions for Geodon, Seroquel, and Zyprexa were filled more than 25,000 times.
Though some studies suggest traditional medication or older anti-psychotic medications are just as effective, other experts said atypical anti-psychotics are less likely to cause jerks or tics.
Some doctors say that side effects are worth the risk in extreme cases because the drugs allow many children a higher quality of life.
“Curbs sought on psychiatric drugs given to children”
Lexington Herald-Leader, October 7, 2008