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September 1997

Medication Development and Testing in Children and Adolescents: Current Problems, Future Directions

Author Affiliations

From the Child and Adolescent Disorders Research Branch, National Institute of Mental Health, Rockville, Md.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1997;54(9):871-876. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1997.01830210119016

Progress in pediatric psychopharmacological research has suffered notable delay, especially compared with the achievements in adult psychopharmacology. Although safety and efficacy of the use of many psychotropic agents in children remain largely unproved, their pediatric use has been increasing and their widespread off-label prescribing by practitioners has raised some important concerns. The National Institute of Mental Health, in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration and leading researchers, has coordinated systematic efforts to identify the major obstacles to research in pediatric psychopharmacology and to propose feasible solutions. In 1995, a conference cosponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Food and Drug Administration gathered more than 100 research experts, family and patient advocates, and representatives of mental health professional associations. Participants met in working groups focused on specific aspects of child research and reached consensus on various recommendations. Each of the various aspects relevant to conducting research in this area (methodological, ethical, legal, regulatory, financial, and family or community context) presents specific challenges, which are herein outlined. Recommendations for possible solutions are presented, some of which are being implemented. Because data about drug safety and efficacy in adults can rarely be extrapolated to children, there is no substitute for pediatric psychopharmacological research. Successful strategies for overcoming the many obstacles with which this research has to contend must enlist the concerted efforts of all the relevant parties (investigators, clinicians, industry, federal agencies, ethicists, families, and community representatives).

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