Children’s Rights and the National Center for Youth Law have filed a federal lawsuit in Missouri District Court alleging that the Missouri Department of Social Services over-exposed foster children with behavioral problems to psychotropic drugs like Risperdal.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Jefferson City, seeks to force the state to put into place stricter measures to protect children in state custody from over-medication. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for the lawsuit, according to a Reuters report. “Giving a pill to sedate the child or older person is a quicker and easier response than training caregivers and staff (to provide) non-pharmacological, safer and in many instances more effective treatment,” said Bill Grimm, an attorney with the National Center for Youth Law.
An estimated 30 percent of children in the custody of the state of Missouri are prescribed psychotropic medications, including antipsychotics like Risperdal, as well as antidepressants and mood stabilizers, twice the national rate, according to the lawsuit. A psychotropic drug is any medication capable of affecting the mind, emotions, and behavior.
Risperdal not Approved for Young Children
Because the bodies and brains of young children are still developing, being exposed to powerful psychotropic medications like Risperdal can lead to dangerous side effects, such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Suicidal thoughts
Some states, including Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia have developed guidelines for the use of psychotropic medication in foster children. The Missouri lawsuit is calling for the court to order the state to keep better records, develop a stronger informed consent policy, and implement a system to flag potential overprescribing of psychotropic drugs.
Risperdal is not FDA-approved for use in children under the age of 5, but is frequently prescribed on an off-label basis. In 2006, the Risperdal label was updated to warn that gynecomastia occurred in 2.3 percent of pediatric patients; before that, is was listed as a rare side effect occurring in less than 1 in 1,000 patients.