European Journal of Pediatrics

, Volume 166, Issue 4, pp 339–347 | Cite as

Use of psychotropic medications in Italian children and adolescents

  • Antonio ClavennaEmail author
  • Elisa Rossi
  • Marisa DeRosa
  • Maurizio Bonati
Original Paper



The evidence of psychotropic drug safety and efficacy in the pediatric population is scant and widely debated. Yet, the prescription prevalence and incidence are increasing. A drug utilization study, based on a multiregional prescription database was therefore carried out in a sample of 1,484,770 Italian children and adolescents younger than 18 years during the year 2004. Furthermore, the trend of psychotropic prescription prevalence was evaluated from 1998 to 2004. During 2004, 4,316 children and adolescents received psychotropic drugs (2.91‰ youths). Antidepressants were prescribed to 3,503 youths (2.36‰), antipsychotics to 1,005 (0.68‰), and lithium to 73 (0.05‰). A total of 265 youths received drugs from more than one psychotropic class. The prevalence rate of psychotropic drug prescriptions increased with increasing age, with a statistically significant trend (\(\chi ^{2}_{t} = 2443\); p<0.0001), and it increased in the period 1998–2004 with a statistically significant trend (\( \chi ^{2}_{t} = 298 \); p<0.0001), reaching its highest value in 2002 (3.08‰). The trend for antidepressants was similar (\( \chi ^{2}_{t} = 501 \); p<0.0001), while the prevalence of antipsychotics did not increase.


Even though the prevalence of psychotropic drug prescriptions in Italian children is lower than that reported in other countries (e.g. United States, Canada, Netherlands, UK), the increase in antidepressant prescriptions raises some concerns. Data concerning safety and efficacy of these antidepressants in pediatrics are still limited and further studies are needed to guarantee evidence based therapeutic approaches in children, adolescents and their families.


Child Adolescent Pediatrics Psychotropic drugs Drug utilization 



anatomic therapeutic chemical


Interuniversity Consortium


Food and Drug Administration


major depressive disorder


obsessive compulsive disorder


selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor


tricyclic antidepressant



Dr. Antonio Clavenna holds a fellowship granted by Boehringer Ingelheim Italia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Antonio Clavenna
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elisa Rossi
    • 2
  • Marisa DeRosa
    • 2
  • Maurizio Bonati
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratory for Mother and Child Health“Mario Negri” Institute for Pharmacological ResearchMilanItaly
  2. 2.CINECA Interuniversity ConsortiumCasalecchio di Reno, BolognaItaly

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