State To Study Antipsychotic Drugs Effects On Children

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Ohio Medicaid officials announced a plan Tuesday to take a look at how antipsychotic drugs are being prescribed to children, especially those in foster care.

The state will spend a million dollars over the next three years to evaluate and improve how doctors are prescribing antipsychotic medications to children on Medicaid. 
Officials suspect doctors could be doling out too many, particularly to the 12,000 kids in foster care.
"A comprehensive review of pharmacy claims data from 16 states found that while children in foster care represent only three percent of children covered by Medicaid, they were prescribed antipsychotic medications at nearly nine times the rate of other children receiving Medicaid," said Jennifer Justice, with the Office of Families and Children.
If kids with severe mental illnesses are taking more pills than they need, there are side effects, and those can affect how well they do in the classroom.
"The question was raised about school performance, so sedation is actually one of the side effects, which then may prompt the utilization of ADHD-type medications to wake them up," said Mary Applegate, the medical director of Ohio Medicaid.
The next year and a half is the analysis phase of the study.
That means collecting and looking at data to figure out the scope of the problem.
"One of the things that we're uncertain of at this time is, you know, is there an over-prescription problem? Is there not? Are they being prescribed correctly or not? That's a part of what we're looking at and studying is to figure those things out," said John McCarthy, with the Office of Ohio Health Plans.
A panel of experts will come up with best practices and clinical guidelines for prescribing antipsychotic drugs. 
The state will then share those findings with medical professionals.
Michael Locklear is a fellow in Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Statehouse News Bureau.