A review of pharmacoepidemiologic studies of antipsychotic use in children and adolescents

Can J Psychiatry. 2012 Dec;57(12):717-21. doi: 10.1177/070674371205701202.


Objective: In Canada, treatment of children and adolescents with antipsychotics is almost always off label. A single atypical agent, aripiprazole, only recently received regulatory authorization for use in the group aged 15 to 17 years. This regulatory approval was restricted to treatment of schizophrenia. The objective of this review was to summarize pharmacoepidemiologic reports examining the frequency of use of these medications.

Methods: A literature search was used to identify English-language studies examining the pharmacoepidemiology of antipsychotics in children and adolescents. The results of identified studies were summarized using narrative review methods.

Results: In countries where longitudinal data are available, increased antipsychotic use has been consistently observed. Generally, most or all of this increase can be attributed to second-generation antipsychotics (SGAs). Major international differences are evident in the literature. European studies describe lower overall frequencies of use than North American studies (most of which were conducted in the United States). SGAs in children and adolescents are used more often in boys than in girls, and are increasingly used for treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder (CD).

Conclusions: Determining the most appropriate frequency of SGA use in children and adolescents will ultimately depend on decisive clarification of risks and benefits. The currently available literature highlights large international differences in the frequency of use. These differences may reflect fundamental dissimilarities in the therapeutic stance adopted toward ADHD and CD by physicians practicing in different countries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / drug therapy
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child Psychiatry / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conduct Disorder / drug therapy
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Pharmacoepidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antipsychotic Agents