Overall, 6 percent of children and teenagers in the United States take medication for depression, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and other behavioral and emotional problems. Many of the drugs, especially the antidepressants, are the same as those given to adults, but have not been approved by the FDA for children. The best known of these is Prozac (fluoxetine).
Here's What's New
After reviewing all available data, the FDA now believes that there is enough evidence of Prozac's effectiveness to warrant its approval for treating depression in children older than age 7. However, parents of these children should know that Prozac can have such adverse effects as nausea, fatigue, dizziness, difficulty concentrating, and nervousness. And they should bear in mind an additional adverse effect unique to kids and teenagers: They may grow more slowly and gain less weight. Researchers are trying to determine whether these children eventually catch up.
What's true for Prozac doesn't necessarily apply to other drugs classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). For example, the FDA has ruled that Paxil (paroxetine) should not be taken by anyone younger than age 18 because it is associated with a possible increased risk of suicidal impulses.
The Bottom Line
Depressed children and teenagers may be treated with Prozac if their doctors believe the symptoms are serious enough to justify it. Such therapy is safe, according to the FDA. But if your child is taking Prozac, make sure a pediatrician closely monitors his or her weight and growth.