The use of atypical antipsychotic drugs like Zyprexa, Risperdal, Abilify and Seroquel has skyrocketed. These drugs have almost entirely replaced the use of first-generation antipsychotics for the treatment of schizophrenia and related disorders.
Use of atypical antipsychotics by children, while low at about 1%, doubled between 2001 and 2010. The rate of use increased most sharply, however — by 350% — in adults aged 20 to 64. Older Americans had the highest use of atypical antipsychotics overall: rates rose 71% in men and 88% in women over 65.
These drugs were aggressively marketed by drug companies and largely patent-protected over the previous decade. Their use has grown despite the fact that there is no evidence of increase in the disorders that they are approved to treat. (Antipsychotics are also used to treat bipolar disorder, a diagnosis that has been controversially expanded to children in increasing numbers.) Indeed, all of the major manufacturers of atypical antipsychotics had to settle with the Food and Drug Administration for marketing them illegally; settlements totaled in the billions of dollars.
The drugs come with some serious risks: they can cause diabetes and severe weight gain, and their side effects may be more severe in children, though long-term data is lacking. Atypical antipsychotics are also linked with an increased risk of death in people with dementia.
More than 1 in 5 American adults now takes at least one type of medication to treat a psychological or behavioral disorder, a 22% rise since 2001, according to a new report by Medco Health Solutions, which monitors drug trends in insurance claims. Does that mean Americans are overmedicating their minds?