Almost 30 percent of adolescents take prescription drugs

Prescription drug utilization among children increased 5 percent in 2009, according to the Medco 2010 Drug Trend Report. The growth rate was four times as high as the population overall.

Twenty-six percent of insured children 0-19 and almost 30 percent of those aged 10-19 take one or more prescriptions for chronic conditions. Fastest growing areas in the 200s: antipsychotics, diabetes, asthma.

“[An] alarming trend since the beginning of the decade is the increasing use of medications taken by children on a regular basis and in some cases, for conditions that we don’t often associate with youth, such as type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Robert S. Epstein, Medco’s chief medical officer and president of the Medco Research Institute in a press release.  “The fact that one-in-three adolescents are being treated for a chronic condition points to the need for additional health education and lifestyle changes that can address the obesity issue that is likely a driving force behind such conditions as type 2 diabetes and even asthma.”

Epstein and Medco CEO David Snow expanded on the findings in a conference call today.A few takeaways from the call:

  • I asked about the trend in the use of anti-psychotics by children. Epstein replied that antipsychotic use among kids has increased by about 100 percent over the last decade. He added, “The drugs are also used off-label for autism and a variety of behavioral problems. Some anti-psychotics can cause diabetes, and there are a lot of reasons to be cautious” about prescribing these drugs to kids.
  • The increase in diabetes drug use was most profound in girls
  • Obesity is the underlying cause for the increase in diabetes in kids but also leads to other problems. For example Medco is seeing an increase in the use of lipid lowering and anti-hypertensive agents among kids. In addition, the rate of pre-diabetes is 10 times as high as for diabetes, so the diabetes figures are just the “tip of the iceberg.”

Other highlights from the report:

  • ADHD drug use is rising quickly, especially among those under 35. In the 20-34 age range utilization jumped 21 percent.
  • Use of stimulants for ADHD and other indications is expected to keep rising over the next few years, especially if Nuvigil is approved to treat jet lag
  • Diabetes, oncology and rheumatology treatments will drive growth through 2012
  • $46 billion in branded drug sales will shift to generic by the end of 2012
  • Biosimilars and biogenerics won’t be a factor in the market through 2012 at least
May 19, 2010

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