US Pharm. 2015;40(5):HS-32-HS-33.

A new study finds that 1.2% of preschool children in the United States who are on Medicaid are using psychotropic drugs, including antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and medications for attention-deficit disorder.

Using 2000-2003 Medicaid Analytic Extract data from 36 states, researchers at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis discovered that preschoolers were receiving psychotropic medications despite limited evidence supporting safety or efficacy. The results of the study appear in the March issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

“It is possible that some of these children have brain injuries or insults, such as traumatic brain injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome or the like, for which treatment is being provided. But if these medications are being used solely for behavioral control, then it seems clear that we need to better assess these children, and see if they might be better served by the use of evidence-based behavioral interventions,” said Ramesh Raghavan, MD, PhD, co-author of the study, associate professor at the Brown School, and associate professor of psychiatry at the School of Medicine.

“Although the absolute numbers and percentages of these drugs were small, these findings are worrying in so far as they indicate the use of psychotropic drugs among very young children,” the study authors write.