A 12 year study of over 40,000 children and young adults shows that a number of medications prescribed to treat behavioural problems in children dramatically increases their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The drugs studied were:
Abilify (aripiprazole) – indicated for use in older children with bipolar disorder
Risperdal (risperidone) – indicated for use in children with aggressive behaviour
Seroquel (quetiapine) – not indicated in children except for off label use
Zyprexa (olanzapine) – not for children unless off label exception made
Some of these medications are not indicated for use in in children in the UK but may be prescribed for off label use in cases of children with schizophrenia or manic episodes of bipolar disorder.
Antipsychotic medications are strong and effective in terms of controlling the symptoms of aggressive or manic behaviour but they have a number of common side effects including headaches, disrupted sleeping behaviour, fatigue, abnormal movements in the limbs and notably weight gain.
The study looked at around 29,000 children and young adults using the medications listed above and compared them with around 14,000 subjects taking alternative medication such as lithium, antidepressants and psychostimulants including Ritalin.
The risk of developing type 2 diabetes was 3 times higher within a year for the group taking the antipsychotics than for the control group on other medication and remained as high for up to a year after use of antipsychotics was stopped.
There are alternative medications to antipsychotics and doctors will need to take the risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes into account, amongst other factors, when considering whether or not to prescribe antipsychotics.