[Vaccines, vaccines, vaccines, affecting the immune system and child.]

More Kids Are Taking More Meds Than Ever Before

Pharmalot | Ed Silverman | More American children are taking pills for diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol than ever before, reflecting a rise in chronic diseases related to obesity. The use of drugs for type-2 diabetes, in particular, doubled in children ages 5 to 19 and statins rose by 15 percent between 2002 and 2005, according to a study published in the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The study tracked the prescription records collected by Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefits manager, for about 3 million children a year. The use of drugs for asthma rose 47 percent and high blood pressure meds rose 2 percent, the study found (here it is).

“Ten or 15 years ago we weren’t even discussing these conditions, which were mainly in adults,” Emily Cox, a senior director of research at Express Scripts, tells Bloomberg News. “Now, we are seeing a growing number of children being treated for chronic conditions that they are going to take into adulthood.”

Drug use was especially high among girls, who were more than twice as likely to be taking a diabetes med as boys, even though girls aren’t more likely to have the disease, the researchers said. Cox suggests this may be because girls visit the doctor twice as much as boys.

There was also a 40 percent rise in drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder with the increase for girls, at 63 percent, rising faster than for boys, at 33 percent. And ADHD drug use rose in among 15 to 19 year olds, an age group for which use typically declines as teenagers are taken off the meds. That may be a sign that ADHD drugs are being used more as stimulants to help teens keep up with schoolwork or for recreational use, Cox posits.

Doctors may be also prescribing more medicines to children after a 1997 law encouraged drugmakers to study the effects of their medicines in adolescents, Bloomberg notes.