From Our 2007 Archives

Prescription Drug Use Up in Teen Girls

5-Year Report Shows Sharpest Increase in Type 2 Diabetes Drugs

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

May 17, 2007 -- The number of teens, especially girls, taking prescription drugs for type 2 diabetes, sleep problems, and other illnesses is up.

That's according to a new report from Medco Health Solutions, which manages pharmacy benefit programs.

The report charts Medco's prescription drug claims for some 370,000 girls and boys aged 10-19 from 2001 to 2006.

The sharpest rise in prescription drug claims was for girls taking drugs for type 2 diabetes, which is usually seen in adults but has become more common in kids and teens as childhood obesity rises.

Increases were also seen in drugs for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs, antidepressants, type 1 diabetes, antipsychotics, and sleep aids -- with girls leading the growth in all of those drug classes.

"This analysis raises concerns and questions about the health of adolescents in America, particularly girls," says Robert Epstein, MD, Medco's chief medical officer, in a Medco news release.

"While this may be evidence that more girls are for the first time being appropriately diagnosed and treated, it also raises red flags about the physical and psychological problems afflicting this population," Epstein notes.

Type 2 Diabetes Drug Trends

Medco reports that in 2001, about one in 1,000 girls aged 10-19 took type 2 diabetes drugs. That figure rose to 2.7 per 1,000 girls in 2006, an increase of 167%.

Most of that growth occurred during 2002-2005, according to Medco's data.

In comparison, Medco reports that prescription drug claims for boys aged 10-19 taking type 2 diabetes drugs rose by about 33% during the same time. However, less than one in 1,000 boys took type 2 diabetes drugs throughout that period.

Teen Sleep Prescriptions Up

Most recently, prescriptions for sleep aids showed the sharpest rise for boys and girls alike.

From 2005 to 2006, the prevalence of girls aged 10-19 with prescriptions for sleep aids rose by about 12%, from 3.9 per 1,000 girls in 2005 to 4.37 per 1,000 girls in 2006.

During the same period, the prevalence of boys aged 10-19 with prescriptions for sleep aids rose by more than 18%, from 2.5 per 1,000 boys in 2005 to three per 1,000 boys in 2006.

Here is the complete list of growth in prescription drug claims for 2001-2006 in girls and boys aged 10-19:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs. Up nearly 74% for girls and 37% for boys
  • Antidepressants. Up more than 9% in girls and less than 1% in boys
  • Type 1 diabetes drugs. Up nearly 17% in girls and almost 10% in boys
  • Type 2 diabetes drugs. Up nearly 167% in girls and about 33% in boys
  • Antipsychotics. Up more than 117% in girls and almost 71% in boys
  • Sleep aids. Up more than 80% in girls and about 64% in boys

SOURCES: Medco Health Solutions: "Growth in Medication Use in Children -- 2001-2006." News release, Medco Health Solutions.

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