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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Suicide of Florida Child May be Linked to Psychiatric Medication

The suicide of a 7-year-old Florida boy has led to the introduction of a bill in that state's legislature that will lead to more closely monitoring psychiatric drugs given to children in foster care. The young boy was prescribed Seroquel, a drug to treat bipolar disorder, as well as other psychiatric drugs labeled by federal regulators as having dangerous side effects. One of the potential side effects is heightened suicidal thoughts and actions.

The boy was found hanged in a bathroom with a shower cord. It is believed the risks of the psychiatric drugs were not adequately explained to the boy's foster parents. Regardless, these drugs are not approved for use by young children, but they are often prescribed off-label to treat other issues not normally associated with them.

One Florida state senator says the new measure will require an independent review panel before psychiatric drugs can be prescribed to children under ten. She also believes drugs have replaced talk-therapy and are over-prescribed to children who adults believe are unruly.

The bill will also require caregivers and doctors to report adverse side-effects, which must be documented by the Department of Children and Families. Children will also be required to undergo a mental health treatment plan, including counseling to children that are prescribed drugs.

The boy's death helped to prompt a statewide investigation that showed around 13 percent, or almost 2700, foster children are given psychiatric drugs. Only four to five percent of children in the general population are given these kinds of drugs.

It used to be that children running around and acting "unruly" were simply being children. However, the nation sees more and more that adults want to prescribe these children dangerous drugs to settle them down. As the Florida state senator told the media, all this does is cover any behavioral problems that could be treated with therapy instead of medication. "All you're doing is putting him in a chemical straight jacket so that he can't act out so you can get him to 18 and dump him into adulthood and that's not acceptable."

If your child has been prescribed psychiatric drugs like Seroquel and is exhibiting side effects, contact your pediatrician. Next, please contact the experienced pharmaceutical liability attorneys at the Cochran Firm for an initial consultation. We serve clients nationwide.

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posted by Benjamin A. Irwin at 7:06 AM

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