Objective: The aim of this study was to report the frequency of common treatment-emergent adverse events (AEs) from selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) in children, adolescents, and adults.
Method: AE data were obtained from all published double-blind, placebo-controlled SSRI studies of children and adolescents that separated AE findings by age group. The AE findings were pooled for purposes of age-group comparisons. Double-blind, placebo-controlled SSRI studies of adolescents (n = 2) and of adults identified in systematically identified trials (n = 22) were assessed to compare patterns and rates across the age span. Other reports, primarily from the published SSRI literature, were added to clarify the findings presented.
Results: Activation and vomiting SSRI AEs were 2- to 3-fold more prevalent in children than in adolescents, and their rate was lowest in adults. Somnolence as a SSRI AE was uncommon in children; its rate increased with advancing age. Insomnia and nausea were common SSRI AEs across the age span. Activation AEs were a frequent reason for discontinuation from SSRI clinical trials in preadolescents, whereas somnolence, nausea, and insomnia AEs were the most common reasons for trial discontinuations in adults.
Conclusions: Children are particularly vulnerable to specific AEs from certain medications, such as SSRIs. It is likely that the level of children's biological immaturity explains part of this phenomenon.