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Infants dosed with Prozac



CHILDREN under three years old are being given anti-psychotic drugs suitable only for adults.

Research shows 5 per cent of Australian pediatricians have prescribed anti-psychotic drugs for children under three.

The study has confirmed significant numbers of toddlers are taking anti-depressants, including Prozac, behaviour stimulants and anti-psychotic drugs.

A Murdoch Childrens Research Institute study found 6 per cent of Australia's 631 child psychologists and pediatricians had prescribed Ritalin and other mood stimulants to children under three.

Five per cent of the doctors also prescribed anti-psychotic drugs, including Serenace and Melleril, to children under three. Between 2 and 3 per cent had written scripts for anti-depressants including Prozac and Zoloft to infants aged three and under.

Royal Children's Hospital pediatrician Dr Daryl Efron, who headed the soon to be published study, said the results were concerning and highlighted the need for more research on the effects of such drugs given to children.

Almost half the doctors surveyed said they had on occasion supplied psychotropic drugs to children aged under five.

Dr Efron said while no serious or long-term side effects of the drugs on very young children had been proved, problems may not become apparent for another 10 years.

"The brain is still developing in the early years. It's is one of those areas where clinical practice is going ahead of research," he said.

About 80 per cent of prescription medications have not been formally tested on children but are often prescribed by doctors.

Some psychotropic prescriptions for the mental management of children are "off label" drugs carrying recommendations that they are not to be used by, or have not been proved safe for, children.

"Some will say these drugs have not been shown to be safe in children under 12 or not recommended for children under 12," Dr Efron said. The Australia-wide survey had confirmed speculation that such drugs were being given to very young children on a fairly regular basis.

"I wouldn't use the word dangerous or crisis, I would say they are of concern," Dr Efron said.

While doctors used a range of measures to help depressed children or those diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder, prescription drugs were becoming more readily administered.

"Pediatricians and child psychologists are seeing more and more of these children with complex behavioural problems," he said. It was unclear why more children were now experiencing such problems, but social changes were at the heart of the increase.

"There is probably a lot of reasons, family dislocation, loss of extended family," he said.

Dr Efron supports a six-month extension for drug manufacturers to protect their monopoly on newly-introduced drugs.


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