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Rx for Juniors

Aired August 27, 2003 - 13:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Dealing with depression? Well, you'll be interested in a new study on the antidepressant drug Zoloft. It's showing surprising results for treating the childhood blues. But that's also bringing up a tricky issue. Should kids be taking medicines for adults?
CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen now to talk about that.

It does sound a little dangerous maybe.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, kids have been taking antidepressants that were originally intend for adults for some time. What this study does is its puts Zoloft sort of in that category of drugs that depressed children will take.

What the study did is it looked at Zoloft, and it compared it to a Placebo. This is being published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association," and here's what they found: Zoloft worked for 69 percent of the patients, but the placebo, which is just a sugar pill, which theoretically should do nothing, worked for an 59 percent of the patients. So I guess there was a difference, but some people say it's not all that big. Prozac and other drugs are already used for children with depression. The FDA, however, this spring started warning against children using Paxil, which is also an antidepressant, because of concern about suicides.

Now, as I said, for some doctors what this says, is that Zoloft really isn't much better than placebo anyhow, and perhaps these children just ought to be getting therapy, which seems to work just as well.

PHILLIPS: I mean, back when we were kids, it was looked at so differently, but anyway, I was thinking about that. But you make a good point, is that it's on the rise, and there are more kids taking these drugs. Why?

COHEN: Well, that's a good question. Is it because people just know more about depression, and so it's -- people aren't afraid, aren't embarrassed and so more parents are saying, hey, I think my kids might be depressed, or is that doctors are just too eager to put kids on depressants. Between 1988 and 1994, the number of kids on antidepressants went up three to fivefold. That's a huge increase for just a six-year period.

And some people say, look, when you look at the statistics, most of these kids are getting their antidepressants just from their regular pediatricians. That means the chances are they're not getting therapy, because regular pediatricians don't do therapy, and they're getting just these drugs anyhow. And so some people are concerned that they're just sort of throwing these drugs out there.

PHILLIPS: You got to pay more attention to your kids, you know, nowadays it seems like.

COHEN: Absolutely. Many people say if people just paid more attention, if people were taught better parenting skills, but teaching parenting skills, doing family therapy, giving child therapy, that costs money. Guess what, insurance doesn't pay for a whole lot of that. Parents have to pay out of pocket. It can get to be thousands upon thousands of dollars a year to do parenting therapy, or family therapy or therapy for the children. The drugs, the insurance company will pay for. It's a $10 co-pay. So the economics of this weigh in very heavily.

PHILLIPS: Thanks, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

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