Improving the methods for evaluating the safety of psychotropic medications in children and adolescents

Laurence L. Greenhill, Benedetto Vitiello, Howard Abikoff, Jerome Levine, John S. March, Mark A. Riddle, Lisa Capasso, Thomas Cooper, Mark Davies, Prudence Fisher, Robert L. Findling, Jane Fried, Michael Labellarte, James McCracken, Donald J. McMahon, James Robinson, Anne M. Skrobala, Lawrence Scahill, John Walkup, Julie Zito

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: Given the considerable importance of drug safety in children and adolescents and the potential effects of psychotropic medications on growth rates and developing central neurotransmitter systems, there is a need for valid methods for detecting possible drug-induced adverse events during prolonged exposure. Objectives: The aims of this study were to discuss challenges involved in the collection of safety information on psychotropic medications when administered to children and adolescents and suggest methods for improving existing approaches. Methods: Current methods for collecting and assessing safety data during pediatric psychopharmacological trials are critiqued and possible alternatives reviewed. Results: Methods used for collecting and assessing drug safety data remain less sophisticated than efficacy evaluations. Multisite trials, although demonstrating statistical power to detect placebo/active drug differences, remain too small to detect infrequent but serious drug-related adverse events. Other active surveillance approaches, such as long-duration follow-up studies and clinical epidemiological studies, using case-control, cohort designs, or trend analysis of population-based treatment data must be used. Conclusions: Research is needed to standardize the basic ascertainment approaches, definitions of adverse events, lists of preferred terms, and recording procedures to a common core battery. A possible approach to developing and testing these procedures is proposed. Then more detailed lists of drug-related adverse events can be added, which can be study specific. The increasing use of psychotropic medications in youths should be accompanied by increased efforts to standardize the ascertainment of drug-related adverse events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)873-884
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Therapeutic Research - Clinical and Experimental
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2001


  • Adverse events
  • Children
  • Drug safety
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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