Number of US Children Taking Meds for Chronic Conditions ‘Significantly’ Increasing

November 6, 2008
Sean Johnson

The number of children taking medications for chronic conditions significantly increased between 2002 and 2005.

According to a recent study in the journal Pediatrics, the number of children taking medications for conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, asthma, depression, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders significantly increased between 2002 and 2005. The study was based on prescription records of children age 5-19 years who were covered by Express Scripts, and did not take into account the “40% of children who are uninsured or covered by government-sponsored health care plans.” Based on these criteria, researchers reported the following statistics for the studied time period:

  • The number of children taking medication for type 2 diabetes more than doubled.
  • A 47% increase occurred in the number of asthma prescriptions for asthma.
  • Prescriptions for ADHD medication among this age group went up by 40%.
  • Antidepressant use remained flat.
  • The increase for diabetes and ADHD prescriptions was in large part due to a rise in prescriptions for girls in this age group.
  • The biggest disparity between boys and girls was seen in diabetes medications; in girls age 10-14 years a 166% increase in diabetes medications was seen, whereas the increase was 39% among boys in this age group.

Study author Donna Halloran, a pediatrician at St. Louis University, explained that pediatricians have been aware of such trends in their practices but that the sharp increase is most surprising. “There are concerns that we're moving too quickly to drug therapy. We don't know that drug therapy is best for some of these conditions,” said Cox.