Significant Differences in Pediatric Psychotropic Side Effects: Implications for School Performance

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Abstract

Some side effects (SEs) of increasingly prescribed psychotropic medications can impact student performance in school. SE risk varies, even among drugs from the same class (e.g., antidepressants). Knowing which SEs occur significantly more often than others may enable school psychologists to enhance collaborative risk-benefit analysis, medication monitoring, data-based decision-making, and inform mitigation efforts. SE data from Full Prescribing Information (PI) on the FDA website for ADHD drugs, atypical antipsychotics, and antidepressants with pediatric indications were analyzed. Risk ratios (RR) are reported for each drug within a category compared with placebo. RR tables and graphs inform the reader about SE incidence differences for each drug and provide clear evidence of the wide variability in SE incidence in the FDA data. Breslow-Day and Cochran Mantel-Haenszel methods were used to test for drug-placebo SE differences and to test for significance across drugs within each category based on odds ratios (ORs). Significant drug-placebo differences were found for each drug compared with placebo, when odds were pooled across all drugs in a category compared with placebo, and between some drugs within categories. Unexpectedly, many large RR differences did not reach significance. Potential explanations are offered, including limitations of the FDA data sets and statistical and methodological issues. Future research directions are offered. The potential impact of certain SEs on school performance, mitigation strategies, and the potential role of the school psychologist is discussed, with consideration for ethical and legal limitations.

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