Florida health officials took measures last year to slow down the use of antipsychotic drugs among children. As a result, pediatricians are now required to obtain approval before prescribing these drugs to children under the age of 6 on the Medicaid program.
In the 1990s, a new class of atypical drugs was introduced for treatment of adult schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. These pills gained popularity and were prescribed to treat anything from dementia to insomnia. At the same time, pediatricians also started prescribing these drugs to calm otherwise uncontrollable children. Even though drug manufacturers are not allowed to market drugs for off-label uses, which would apply in the case of the pediatric prescriptions, it did not stop doctors from giving the medication to children. Sales representatives from the manufacturers of atypical drugs frequently dropped off samples at pediatricians’ offices.
From 2001 to 2004, the number of children under the age of 6 taking atypical drugs skyrocketed by 300 percent. However, none of the prescription drugs were approved for use on preschoolers, which prompted Florida Medicaid guidelines to be created, which recommend they only be used in “the most extraordinary circumstances.”
Since the atypical drugs have been introduced, there have been numerous reports of dangerous side effects. For example, these drugs have been linked with diabetes and weight gain. There have also been lawsuits against the drug makers for illegal marketing. Eli Lilly, which manufacturers Zyprexa, paid a record $1.4 billion fine and an additional $1.2 billion to settle lawsuits with patients.
The steps taken by Florida health officials have slowed the amount of prescriptions written for atypical drugs for children. Now when a physician wants to prescribe one of these drugs to a preschooler, he or she must fax a request and a Medicaid pharmacist will review it along with the patient’s medical history. The Medicaid pharmacist usually wants to see that the pediatrician tried some other type of medication before requesting the atypical drug. Some of the pharmacists review as many as 20 requests per week.
Atypical drugs have serious side effects and may harm young patients. If your child has experienced a serious side effect from an atypical drug, such as Zyprexa, Abilify or Risperdal, you need to contact an experienced Florida attorney to review your child’s case. Drug manufacturers can sometimes be held liable for injuries resulting from their products. Call the Law Offices of Lilly, O’Toole & Brown, LLP at (863) 683-1111 to review your case.