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Weight Loss Prescriptions to Children Increased 15-Fold

But most children and adolescents only take the drugs for a short period of time

TUESDAY, Sept. 8 (HealthDay News) -- The number of off-label prescriptions for weight loss drugs to children and adolescents has increased 15-fold over an eight year period in Kingdom, although most young people only take the drug for a short time and are unlikely to have seen any benefit, according to a study published online Sept. 2 in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Russell M. Viner, Ph.D., and colleagues from University College London analyzed data from the United Kingdom General Practice Research Database to identify off-label use of anti-obesity drugs (orlistat, sibutramine, and rimonabant) in children and adolescents up to 18 years of age.

The researchers found that 452 young people received 1,334 prescriptions for anti-obesity drugs from 1999 to 2006. The annual number of prescriptions rose 15-fold over this period, from 0.006 to 0.091 per 1,000. Adolescents at least 14 years old received the majority of prescriptions. About three-quarters of prescriptions (78.4 percent) were for orlistat. The mean duration of treatment was only three months for orlistat and four months for sibutramine.

"Prescribing of unlicensed anti-obesity drugs in children and adolescents has dramatically increased in the past eight years," Viner and colleagues conclude. "The majority are rapidly discontinued before patients can see weight benefit, suggesting they are poorly tolerated or poorly efficacious when used in the general population."

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