Overprescribing & Misprescribing Children Anti-Psychotic Medication

Bad Medicine

PillsIn a recent Legal Intelligencer article title, “Pediatric Psychiatrist Talks Studies, Side Effects in Risperdal Trial,” P.J. D’Annunzio discusses a Risperdal lawsuit against Jansen Pharmaceutical.

In the case referenced in the article, the plaintiffs, parents of a young boy, are suing Janssen Pharmaceutical, arguing that (1) the warning labels on the Risperdal medication prescribed to their son were not sufficient to put them on notice that their male child might develop breasts; and (2) even if there was a warning label, that it was insufficient because (a) the real rate of gynecomastia (male breast development) in male children was not known to the treating child neurologist; and (b) the warning label rate of male breast development pertained only to adults and it did not adequately warn of or reflect the much higher rate of male breast development in children (plaintiffs are arguing male breast development rate for children on Risperdal is 23 times higher than their adult counterparts).

It’s unclear how the case will shake out (in another case, American corporate titan Johnson and Johnson settled on the day of trial), but as a Denver personal injury attorney, this case raises a question for meba: are medical professionals over-prescribing antipsychotic drugs like Risperdal to children in the first place?

According to a 2010 Alaska Dispatch News article, an organization named the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights sued more than a dozen Alaska child psychiatrists alleging that the the doctors unnecessarily drugged children and committed Medicaid fraud.  According to the article, the crux of the plaintiffs’ allegation was that the psychiatrists followed the drug companies’ marketing to the point of deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard for the health of their patients when it came to prescribing psychiatric medications to kids. The suit alleged that the drugs were especially overprescribed to youths from low-income families and that state officials were complacent in the alleged abuse.

Having served a brief stint as a trial deputy in Colorado juvenile court, I would always run across children who, yes, had behavorial problems, but maybe didn’t need a 3-part anti-psychotic drug cocktail on a daily basis.  These cases are always difficult.  On the one hand, a proper diagnosis coupled with a targeted administration of anti-psychotic drugs to some children has resulted in improved behaviors and learning abilities.  On the other hand, we have seen cases such as the case of Alaskan child psychiatrists over-prescribing anti-psychotic drugs to small children who maybe shouldn’t be taking the medications in the first place.

It’s a fine line, but it has to be drawn.  If you suspect that your child or another loved one has suffered harm as the result of a psychiatrist overprescribing, or misprescribing an anti-psychotic drug, contact Denver personal injury attorney Jeffry Dougan today and set up your FREE consultation.

Related: J&J Hid Risperdal Risks of Boy Breast Development, Jury Told