Children Taking Multiple Psychotropics Increased 44%

Nov 19, 2014
Overall cost and medication use is higher for children on Medicaid who take a psychotropic medication.
  • Commercial
  • Medicaid
  • Attention Disorders
  • Chemical Dependency
  • Mental/Neurological Disorders
  • Children

A recent article in The New York Times highlighted the growing safety concern of children taking multiple psychotropic drugs to temper behavior. Fortunately, Express Scripts provides the healthcare system with additional visibility to help mitigate these risks.

Times’ reporter Alan Schwarz shares Express Scripts data:

  • In 2012 about 1 in 54 youngsters ages 6 through 17 covered by private insurance was taking at least two psychotropic medications – a rise of 44% in four years, according to Express Scripts, which processes prescriptions for 85 million Americans. Academic studies of children covered by Medicaid have also found higher rates and growth. Combined, the data suggest that about 1 million children are currently taking various combinations of psychotropics.

Mental Health Medications Drive Expenditures for Medicaid Plans

A separate Express Scripts analysis of prescription data for children in Medicaid found that overall cost and use is higher for children taking psychotropic medication.

In fact, children using mental health medication had nearly 3.5 times more overall prescription claims than those not using these medications, and the average cost of a prescription was 57% higher.

While the prevalence of pediatric patients taking a psychotropic medication was just 1.8%, these medications comprised almost 16% of the Medicaid plan’s total drug costs.

Risk of Polypharmacy

Our analysis found that 43.2% of kids taking psychotropic medications also take medication for attention disorders.

While there may be legitimate reasons for the use of multiple medications, taking numerous drugs concurrently – also known as polypharmacy – is sometimes unnecessary and may even be harmful.

Polypharmacy causes higher risk for adverse and costly drug interactions and contributes to greater odds that a drug being used for one condition will have a negative impact on another health problem.

Percentage of Children Taking Multiple Psychotropic Medications 

Increasing Patient Safety

Express Scripts’ advanced data systems, such as RationalMed® Patient Safety Program, help reduce polypharmacy risks. By integrating and assessing medical, pharmacy and laboratory data, RationalMed identifies critical errors and gaps in care, and alerts the doctors about the patient’s health risks.

In addition, Express Scripts specialist pharmacists are in a unique position to provide personalized clinical care for the patient, help manage medication side effects, improve medication adherence, and identify and close other gaps in care.

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Lab Staff
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