This study aimed to describe the frequency of off-label prescriptions of psychopharmacological drugs in a child and adolescent psychiatric setting. A cross-sectional study was conducted on November 1, 2014, including all inpatients and outpatients at the Mental Health Centre for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Capital Region of Denmark, aged 0 to 17 years receiving medical treatment with antidepressants, antipsychotic agents, benzodiazepines, melatonin and/or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication. We included a total of 5555 prescriptions representing 2932 patients. The main findings were that 32.3% of all prescriptions were off-label, and 41.6% of subjects received at least 1 off-label prescription. The most frequent off-label category was low age, 72.2%, meaning that the drug was not approved for the age group of the patient. The off-label rates for each drug class were as follows: melatonin, 100%; antipsychotic agents, 95.6%; benzodiazepines, 72.5%; antidepressants, 51.1%; and ADHD medication, 2.7%. Prescription of 2 or more psychopharmacological drugs per patient was common (31.5%). The group of subjects with 4 or more prescriptions (n = 36) was characterized by a higher frequency of inpatients, older age, and a different distribution of diagnoses. This study found a frequent use of off-label prescriptions when treating children and adolescents with psychopharmacological drugs other than ADHD medication. In addition, prescription of more than 1 psychotropic drug is common. These findings support the need for extending the evidence base for psychopharmacologic treatment in children and adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)500-7
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


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