Antipsychotics Tied to Kids' Weight Gain
Study Shows Weight Gain in First 3 Months of Taking Atypical Antipsychotic Drugs
Oct. 27, 2009 -- Taking newer antipsychotic drugs may lead to weight gain in
children and teens, a new study shows.
The study, published in The Journal of the American Medical
Association, focuses on atypical antipsychotics, which have been linked to
weight gain in adults.
The researchers tracked 338 children and teens (average age 14) in the
Queens, N.Y., area during their first three months of taking any of these
atypical antipsychotics: Abilify, Risperdal, Seroquel, and Zyprexa. When the
study started, most of the patients -- about 62% -- had a normal BMI (body mass
The children's doctors prescribed atypical antipsychotics to treat
conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, and disruptive
or aggressive behavior, which in some cases was linked to autism spectrum
disorders. Many of those uses are "off label," or not approved by the FDA, for
use in pediatric patients, although several are up for FDA consideration for
The findings link all four drugs to weight gain. Here are the average
amounts of weight gained by the kids after three months of treatment:
- Abilify: nearly 10 pounds
- Risperdal: nearly 12 pounds
- Seroquel 13 pounds
- Zyprexa: nearly 19 pounds
By comparison, 15 patients who refused or quit taking the drugs gained less
than half a pound during those three months.
The findings also link all of the drugs, except Abilify, to various
metabolic changes. Levels of total cholesterol and triglycerides rose in
patients taking Zyprexa and Seroquel. Triglycerides also increased in patients
The researchers, who included Christoph Correll, MD, of Zucker Hillside
Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., call the findings "concerning." But they don't
advise against taking atypical antipsychotics when needed.
Instead, Correll's team suggests that children and teens get "more frequent
(e.g., biannual) cardiometabolic monitoring after the first three months of
treatment" with atypical antipsychotics.
The findings are "timely and sobering," states an editorial published with
"These medications can be lifesaving for youth with serious psychiatric
illnesses such as schizophrenia, classically defined bipolar disorder, or
severe aggression associated with autism," write the editorialists, who
included Christopher Varley, MD, of Seattle Children's Hospital.
"However, given the risk for weight gain and long-term risk for
cardiovascular and metabolic problems, the widespread and increasing use of
atypical antipsychotic medications in children and adolescents should be
Correll's study lasted three months; it did not track the patients'
In the journal, Correll and several other researchers disclose ties to
various drug companies, including the makers of Abilify, Risperdal, Seroquel,
and Zyprexa. The editorialists report no conflicts of interest.