As an increasing number of kids are prescribed powerful antipsychotics, a new study finds that many doctors are deviating from established medical guidelines when they dole out the scripts.
In nearly half of cases, physicians failed to conduct lab tests to measure cholesterol and blood-glucose levels in patients before and after they began taking antipsychotics, according to findings published this month in the journal Pediatrics.
Such lab tests are recommended to mitigate the elevated risk of conditions like high cholesterol and diabetes associated with such medications, researchers said.
Nonetheless, the study found that physicians were generally prescribing antipsychotics to the right patients. In 92 percent of cases, doctors were using the drugs to address situations where they were warranted, most commonly as a secondary treatment for aggression or mood instability.
For the study, researchers sent surveys to every physician in Vermont who prescribed antipsychotics to children covered by Medicaid between July and October 2012. Ultimately, 147 of the doctors — who accounted for prescriptions for 647 patients — responded to questions about their prescribing habits.
The findings suggest that more needs to be done to ensure that doctors follow established protocols when they prescribe antipsychotics, researchers said. Specifically, better training, greater sharing of records and use of electronic medical records to remind providers about blood work could help, they said.
“I’m not anti-antipsychotics; I just want to make sure they’re used very carefully,” said David Rettew of the University of Vermont who led the study. “These findings could help us design a game plan for measures to improve best-practice prescribing.”