Sunday, May 30, 2010
Depressed SA children signed up for local drugs trial
May 30, 2010 12:00 AM | By KAREN VAN ROOYEN
South African children as young as five are being diagnosed with depression - the leading cause of teenage suicide in South Africa and the only known cause of suicide in children under 12.
Yet no medication has ever been registered to treat the disease among the youth.
Now South African psychiatrists are participating in an international clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of existing drugs on children.
Private practitioner Dr Frans Korb, one of the investigators involved in the trial, said: "The stigma of mental illness among parents is still great. I get parents and I make the diagnosis and the parents say, 'No ways, you are not going to put my child on anti-depressants.' "
Depression is particularly hard to diagnose in younger people as the symptoms are often mistaken for hormonal changes in adolescents, or children "acting up".
"Depression is a medical illness. Why would you let your child get a stomach ulcer or appendicitis (and not treat it)?" asked Korb.
Depression is said to affect one in 20 children and is best described as a chemical imbalance in the brain which is either genetic or brought on by external environmental factors and substance abuse.
Various doctors this week highlighted symptoms, including feelings of guilt and hopelessness, loss of interest in activities once enjoyed, low energy, indecisiveness, solitude, and thoughts of suicide.
Children and adolescents diagnosed with depression have traditionally been treated with medication registered only for adult use in South Africa, but which have been registered for younger people in the US.
The same drugs are now being used in the clinical trial, which has been running since June last year and is registered with the South African National Clinical Trial Register.
The participating South African psychiatrists aim to recruit between 40 and 60 children by the time the trial ends in April 2012.
Dr Gert Bosch is also participating in the trial, and has signed up five children.
He has between 10 and 20 new referrals at his Pretoria practice a month and believes registration of the various drugs as safe for use on children in South Africa is crucial for medical and financial reasons: "Once it's got registration, medical aid will pay. Some medical aids do not pay for it as a chronic medication because it's not registered so parents have to pay from their savings and when that runs out, they have to pay cash."
Dr David Benn, a psychiatrist with a special interest in child psychiatry, said Prozac was not registered for children under 18 in SA, although it was prescribed. "It is the only anti-depressant that has full registration for paediatrics, for children, in the US."
Comments by Sonny
Is this what you voted for in 1994.
Dead and dying youth of SA!
Not only the brave soldiers came back with PTSD.
Comments by Reader
Kids today are under enormous pressure and have a lot of insight
All they read about is crime, economic problems and, how many are going to get jobs when they leave school?
The solution lies in contraception/birth control
I could go on for hours about this.
Anyone with insight will realise what a mess the world is in => depression,anxiety