Development of a Symptom-Focused Model to Guide the Prescribing of Antipsychotics in Children and Adolescents: Results of the First Phase of the Safer Use of Antipsychotics in Youth (SUAY) Clinical Trial

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2022 Jan;61(1):93-102. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2021.04.010. Epub 2021 May 4.


Objective: To develop a new approach to prescribing guidelines as part of a pragmatic trial, Safer Use of Antipsychotics in Youth (SUAY; Identifier: NCT03448575), which supports prescribers in delivering high-quality mental health care to youths.

Method: A nominal group technique was used to identify first- to nth-line treatments for target symptoms and potential diagnoses. The panel included US pediatricians, child and adolescent psychiatrists, and psychopharmacology experts. Meeting materials included information about Medicaid review programs, systematic reviews, prescribing guidelines, and a description of the pragmatic trial. Afterward, a series of 4 webinar discussions were held to achieve consensus on recommendations.

Results: The panel unanimously agreed that the guideline should focus on target symptoms rather than diagnoses. Guidance included recommendations for first- to nth-line treatment of target mental health symptoms, environmental factors to be addressed, possible underlying diagnoses that should first be considered and ruled out, and general considerations for pharmacological and therapeutic treatments.

Conclusion: Prescribing guidelines are often ignored because they do not incorporate the real-world availability of first-line psychosocial treatments, comorbid conditions, and clinical complexity. Our approach addresses some of these concerns. If the approach proves successful in our ongoing pragmatic trial, Safer Use of Antipsychotics in Youth (SUAY), it may serve as a model to state Medicaid programs and health systems to support clinicians in delivering high-quality mental health care to youths.

Clinical trial registration information: Safer Use of Antipsychotics in Youth;; NCT03448575.

Keywords: accessibility; antipsychotic; consulting; guidelines.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antipsychotic Agents* / adverse effects
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Medicaid
  • Mental Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Psychiatry*
  • Psychopharmacology*
  • United States


  • Antipsychotic Agents

Associated data