A University of Maryland study has found that nearly 1 in 3 foster children are prescribed antipsychotics such as Risperdal for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which is not an approved use of the drug. The study, which was published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology, looked at more than 260,000 foster children aged 2 to 17, and also targeted a subset of children for whom ADHD was the only mental health condition diagnosed.
Antipsychotic use in children has raised concerns from doctors and researchers worldwide who argue Risperdal side effects could take a serious toll on a child’s mental and physical health. Risperdal has been linked to gynecomastia in male children and adolescents, a condition in which breast tissue develops due to increased levels of the hormone prolactin.
Risperdal manufacturer Janssen Pharmaceuticals has recently come under fire for illegally promoting the drug for unapproved uses in children. The company was ordered to pay $2.2 billion dollars for its illegal Risperdal promotion, including millions of dollars to states for Medicaid fraud. Hundreds of patients have filed Risperdal lawsuits alleging that the drug led to gynecomastia.