BACKGROUND - The use of antipsychotic medications in children and adolescents for indications other than psychosis or Tourette syndrome is controversial. Newer atypical antipsychotics with profiles of adverse effects that differ from those of traditional antipsychotics may lead providers to prescribe antipsychotics more frequently than in the past for behavioral indications not strongly supported by clinical study.
OBJECTIVE - To identify population-based new use of antipsychotics among patients aged 2 to 18 years.
DESIGN - Retrospective cohort study, January 1, 1996, through December 31, 2001.
SETTING - Tennessee's managed care program for Medicaid enrollees and the uninsured (TennCare).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES - New use of antipsychotic medications and indications for use by the child's diagnosis, adjusted for age, sex, race, county of residence, enrollment category, and income.
RESULTS - The proportion of TennCare children who were new users of antipsychotics, adjusted for demographic characteristics, nearly doubled from 23/10 000 in 1996 to 45/10 000 in 2001 (adjusted incidence rate ratio, 1.98; 95% confidence interval, 1.82-2.16). In 1996, 6.8% of new users received an atypical antipsychotic; by 2001, this had increased to 95.9%. New use for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and affective disorders increased 2.5-fold. New use of antipsychotics for schizophrenia, acute psychotic reaction, Tourette syndrome, and mental retardation or autism remained relatively constant. Secular trends of increasing use were most pronounced for those aged 6 to 12 years (93% increase) and 13 to 18 years (116% increase), although use among preschool children increased 61% during the study period.
CONCLUSION - The proportion of TennCare children who became new users of antipsychotics nearly doubled from 1996 to 2001, with a substantial increase in use of antipsychotics for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, conduct disorder, and affective disorders.