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Thursday 27th October 2016

Eight-year-olds 'can use Prozac'

26th June 2006

Prozac can be prescribed for children as young as eight, the Europe's medicine watchdog has said.

The European Medicines Agency has decided the benefits outweighed the risks in children with moderate to severe depression who failed to respond to psychological therapy.

However, it ruled the drug should only be used in combination with on-going therapy.

Mental health campaigners said it was vital that any use of the drug in children was closely monitored.

Prozac, or fluoxetine, was developed by Eli Lilly and Co but is now widely available in generic versions. It is one of a class of drugs known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).

There is evidence suggesting that some SSRIs are associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviour and thoughts.

Following a review the UK regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, ruled that most SSRIs were not suitable for use in adolescents.

However, it decided that the benefits of Prozac alone outweighed the risks, and so ruled that the drug could be given to under-18s. But if no clinical benefit is seen within nine weeks, treatment should be reconsidered.

CHMP also stressed that doctors and parents should carefully monitor children and adolescents for suicidal behaviour, particularly at the beginning of treatment.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of the mental health charity Mind, highlighted problems concerning another SSRI, Seroxat.

The drug was Britain's best-selling anti-depressant, but has been found to induce aggressive and suicidal feelings in children and adults.

He advised extreme caution in administering this treatment to children and adolescents, including very careful monitoring of reactions in this group.

The charity YoungMinds welcomed the EMEA decision, pointing to the devastating impact of depression on children, their families and the wider community.

It is estimated that one in ten children are affected by mental illness.

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