Prozac cleared for children aged eight despite fears of suicide risk

Children as young as eight can be given the antidepressant Prozac, the European Medicines Agency (EMEA) has ruled.

The EMEA said that the drug was safe for young people to take, despite concerns that it can trigger suicidal feelings in patients.

However, the regulator's ruling said Prozac should only be given to children with moderate to severe depression who have not responded to several sessions of psychological therapy. The drug should also be given in small doses and must be used alongside counselling.

Mental health charities gave a cautious welcome to the ruling, saying that some children do need to be given Prozac. They are concerned that the drug may be prescribed more than necessary because of the long waiting lists for psychotherapy and other counselling services on the NHS.

Most antidepressants are banned or restricted for use among children after findings in 2003 that they can trigger mood swings and increase the risk of suicide among patients under 18.

One study found that 3.4 per cent of children experienced suicidal thoughts when taking antidepressants compared with 1.2 per cent who took a dummy, placebo pill.

Prozac was considered to be the only drug that could be safe among children and the British government last year asked the makers, Eli Lilly, to submit an application to the EMEA for its use among under 18s.

The EMEA review of all the data concluded: "Overall, the benefits of Prozac are greater than its potential risks for the treatment of moderate to severe major depressive episode in children and adolescents."

It recommended that children start on a small dose of 10mg of Prozac a day, which could then be increased to 20mg after one or two weeks. Only patients who have not responded to at least four sessions of psychological therapy should be prescribed the drug and if no benefit is seen after nine weeks the treatment should be reconsidered.

Doctors and parents should also be told to monitor children carefully for signs of suicidal behaviour.

The agency called for research into whether Prozac interferes with the sexual development of young patients.

Mental health experts said some children did need prescription drugs to treat depression, but warned that the lack of alternative therapies meant that many will be handed antidepressants inappropriately.

Dr Trevor Turner, the vice-president of the Royal College of Psychiatry, said: "The best kind of treatment uses a combination of cognitive therapy with some medication for a while, but I can imagine there will be a temptation to hope they can get by on Prozac alone because there are waiting lists for cognitive therapies."

Patients under 18 have to wait an average of eight months before they even have an assessment by their local child and adolescent mental health services and 10 months to see a child psychiatrist.

Children are written more than 85,000 prescriptions a year for antidepressants that are not recommended for use among young people, such as Seroxat. An estimated 40,000 young people under 18 are thought to be on antidepressant medication.

Avis Johns, the development director of the Young Minds charity, said: "There may be some circumstances where psychological treatment alone is not effective for the child.

"After careful consideration and consultation with the child, their family and medical team, such treatments may be offered alongside other therapy. However, it should never be the first course of action."

She added: "The impact of severe depression on the child, their family and wider community can be devastating. Although quite rare, the ability to combine a range of therapies with appropriate medication can provide significant benefits and should therefore be welcomed."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Opilio Recruitment: Field Marketing Manage

    £25k - 40k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

    £28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

    Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineers

    £28000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Breakdown Engineer...

    Opilio Recruitment: Product Development Manager

    £40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We are currently recruit...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas