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The 5-Year Course of Medication Treatment in Childhood Anxiety Disorders

J Clin Psychiatry 2019;80(3):18m12318
10.4088/JCP.18m12318

Objective: For pediatric psychiatric disorders, given the marked increase in use of medications without an understanding of the typical treatment course, the primary goal of the current study was to examine the course of pharmacotherapy over 5 years in children with newly diagnosed anxiety disorders.

Methods: We reviewed provider billing and prescription ordering records of a tertiary medical center from 2008 through 2015 to identify children (aged 7–17 years) newly diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and to determine the psychopharmacologic treatment that they received from 2010 through 2015. The frequency at which patients received prescriptions from 9 classes of psychotropic medications at any point during the study period was determined. We used χ2 analyses and independent sample t tests to examine the relationship between receiving a psychotropic prescription and various patient characteristics.

Results: The study cohort included 108 patients (mean [SD] age = 12.8 [3.3] years). In this group, 73.1% received pharmacotherapy on at least 1 occasion over the 5-year period, and 41.7% received medications from more than 1 class. Of those who received a prescription, 50% (27/54) of patients remained on medication for 5 years. This estimate rose to 71% (5/7) within the subset of patients who were medication-naive at the beginning of the observation period and were still in high school during year 5.

Conclusions: Guidelines implying discontinuation of medication after symptom remission and a limited period of stability do not accurately reflect clinical practice.