American Children Put on Drugs to Save Money, Study Shows
Published on Wednesday, January 15, 2003 by the lndependent/UK
American Children Put on Drugs to Save Money, Study Shows
by Andrew Buncombe in Washington

The number of American children taking psychiatric drugs rather than psychotherapy has soared in 15 years because health insurers want cheaper options, a study says.

More than 6 per cent of children use drugs, including Prozac and Ritalin. Between 1987 and 1996 the number of children prescribed such drugs increased threefold and researchers say that rate of increase shows no sign of abating. The study's authors say cost-saving techniques introduced by insurers, and marketing by the pharmaceutical industry, push children and parents towards the use of such drugs rather than more costly therapy.

The survey, by Julie Zito, a researcher at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, found as many children as adults were given psychiatric drugs.

Michael Jellinek, professor of psychiatry at Harvard University and chief of child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said: "The insurance system gives an incentive for medications and a disincentive for therapy. The medicine may ... not address issues of self-esteem, interpersonal relationships and family relationships, all of which are part of recovery." He said promotion of drugs was driven by the profit motives.

Susan Pisano, for the American Association of Health Plans, caring for 160 million people, said: "The study does not say, 'There is a greater use of drugs and that is having a deleterious effect on children'. It just says there is a greater use of drugs."

© 2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd