Skip to comments.Parents spend more on behavior drugs than antibiotics
Posted on 05/17/2004 5:13:11 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
TRENTON, N.J. - As more children pop pills for attention deficit and other behavior disorders, new figures show spending on those drugs has for the first time edged out the cost of antibiotics and asthma medications for kids.
A 49 percent rise in the use of attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs by children younger than 5 in the past three years contributed to a 23 percent increase in usage for all children, according to an annual analysis of drug use trends by Medco Health Solutions Inc.
"Behavioral medicines have eclipsed the other categories this year," said Dr. Robert Epstein, Medco's chief medical officer. "It certainly reflects the concern of parents that their children do as well as they can."
Antibiotics top the list of the most commonly used children's drugs, but parents are paying more for behavioral drugs, such as stimulants or antidepressants, according to the analysis of drug use among 300,000 children younger than 19.
Medco, the nation's largest prescription benefit manager, was to release the data culled from its customers' usage today.
The most startling change was a 369 percent increase in spending on attention deficit drugs for children younger than 5. That's in part because of the popularity of newer, long-acting medicines under patent, compared with twice-a-day Ritalin and generic versions available for years.
But the use of other behavioral drugs also jumped in the past three years. Antidepressant use rose 21 percent, and drugs for autism and other conduct disorders jumped 71 percent, compared with a 4.3 percent rise in antibiotics.
Epstein said 17 percent of drug spending last year for the group of children younger than 19 was for behavioral medicines, compared with 16 percent each for antibiotics and asthma drugs, 11 percent for skin conditions and 6 percent for allergy medicines.
Use of such behavior medicines has been controversial, with some experts questioning whether parents and school officials are too eager to medicate disruptive children.
Some experts say no.
"It's not necessarily a bad thing that these medicines are being used more," said Dr. James McGough, associate professor of clinical psychiatry at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute.
McGough said kids on attention deficit drugs tend to avoid substance abuse and other problems and do better in school.
However, McGough said increasing adolescent use of antidepressants is a concern, because there's little proof they work in young people and evidence shows they might increase suicidal tendencies.
Overall, 5.3 percent of children took some type of behavioral medicine in 2003, including 3.4 percent on attention deficit medicines and 2.3 percent on antidepressants. Some children are on both. That compares with 44 percent who used antibiotics at some point, 13 percent on asthma medicines and 11 percent who used allergy drugs.
Use of asthma medicines increased 15 percent from 2000 to 2003, and use of medicines for gastrointestinal problems jumped 28 percent, mainly because of new drugs for the stomach gas that gives babies colic.
Dr. Richard Gorman, director of the American Academy of Pediatrics' drugs committee, said while there might be "initial overprescribing" of attention deficit disorders, children are typically taken off the drugs if they don't work.
"Either it's better and everyone's relieved, or nothing happens, the kid's still wild and then the parents say to the school, "We tried this stuff, and it didn't work,' " he said.
New attention deficit drugs such as Strattera, Adderall and Concerta require one morning dose, which helps keep children on an even keel all day and eliminates having to line up to get an afternoon dose from busy school nurses or day-care officials.
The side effects are mainly reduced appetite and growth.
Estimates of how many American children have attention deficit problems vary, from 3 percent to 10 percent. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of children 3 to 17 with the disorder rose from 3.3-million in 1997 to 4.4-million in 2002.
Medco said average monthly spending per member was lowest for those 19 and younger, $12.31 a month, compared with $125.58 for those 65 and older.
However, the average cost of a daily dose for one medicine was much higher for children than for senior citizens - $2.12 per day versus $1.29 per day - because many more generic drugs are available for conditions of the elderly.
Seems the entire nation is drugged....
Good. Antibiotics have been way over prescribed for years.
It has to be Bush's fault.
And this in a society that condemns the adolescent use of marijuana!
The Ministry of Truth is having a good year.
Let's just all take a pill.
Not exactly the stuff our parents and grandparents were made of.
Must be something different about American kids. The rest of the world doesn't seem to have this problem.
Perhaps it is because normal childhood behavior is considered to be a disease for all of those couples desiring "trophy kids." They want to lay claim to owning a few for social reasons but have no desire to actually be a part in rearing or training them to become loving, productive members of society.
The socialist state seems to reach its highest level of achievement when it corrupts the young.
Think of all the flowers thrown at Mao, Kim, Adolf and Joe by the happy socialist children in their utopian societies!
I'm hoping the little buggers pick up rocks soon.
Yes --- I guess when your kid doesn't turn out to be the straight A perfectly behaved child you're just sure there is some chemical imbalance that can be corrected with a pill. Pretty sad to see normal kids drugged up by their own parents who can't just accept them as they are.
I am not sure where you live but the parents I know love their children. It's getting harder and harder to raise them the old fashioned way for many reasons. Government intrusion is the biggest reason. Also, economically it's getting harder. Think of the prospect of having to come with $100k for your child's college education. It forces people to sacrifice time and attention knowing they are going to have save that much just to get them into a decent college.
Society today has been corrupted by the pursuit of money from all angles. Everybody wants your money. It's no longer a question of saving for the future. It's make a ton of money now, spend it so you can keep the economy going and don't worry about the future.
Too much selfishness and not enough sacrifice, or responsibility for others, including rearing your own children with love and discipline. The sad thing is this becomes generational.
My granny had the perfect cure for ADD.
A day spent picking and shucking corn will knock hyperactivity right out of a kid.
It's become practically illegal to give your kid a swat on the rear but it's fine to drug them up to get them to behave.
I agree that most parents love their children, but I also see a great number of parents who are simply in love with the idea of being thought of as parents for social reasons. The number of "professionals" who I see who are not willing to give up or put on hold a career and then worry about their child being on some waiting list for a "decent" school and finding a good nanny is simply appalling. Do you call this obsessive willingness to hand over child-raising responsibility to others love? I truly believe that is what these parents believe.
My eldest son, now 12, was observed having problems with coordination when he was 6. Could balance on left leg, diminished hearing and sight on his left side. He also seemed to "go wild" for no apparent reason. Our doctor suggested a neurologist. They ran a brain scan and a bunch of other tests. In the brain scan the left side looked like Times Square, but the right side looked like Boise. Much less activity. He as a right-hemispheric deficiency which manifests itself in ADD-like symptoms. They put him on Adderall and "poof" new kid. Still a wild 12 year old, likes to surf and is a red belt in karate, but his grades are much better and he is much less prone to inappropriately emotional mood swings.
My youngest (7) seemed to be constantly off in his own little world. Couldn't complete any work in school. Would forget that he went into the bedroom to change his clothes. We feared he may be autistic, but, after testing, not only wasn't he autistic, but his IQ tested out in the 150's. Classic ADD without the HD. The doctor started him on Adderall, but has since switched him to Stratera. His grades are up, he finishes his work (mostly), and he drifts off much less.
My take on this is that 30 years ago kids like mine would just do poorly in school, have trouble adjusting, and go on to enriching careers in the fast food service industry. We have now found a way to help kids do better in school, and life, and I for one and glad for it.
A lot of these kids would be fine if their parents just did their jobs and spent some quality time with them.
I wonder how my generation made it without relying on drugs?
Or maybe better. My grandfather got to go to school in a one room school house where kids weren't segregated by age but by ability --- he was only able to go for 3 years but learned to read and do math probably better than most high school graduates today --- and of course he read and continued to learn, and was quite successful.
School might be a very unnatural setting for people who aren't strictly average.
I must say that I don't know anyone like that. I guess I am glad that I don't. Very sad.
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