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Are Foster Children Being Overprescribed Psychotropic Medication

As San Diego child injury lawyers, we are concerned by reports that children in California’s foster care system are being overprescribed powerful psychotropic medications.

As first detailed by Mercury News, the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and physicians who treat California’s foster children is cause for concern. The newspaper’s investigation revealed that doctors who prescribe medications to these vulnerable children are frequent recipients of payments from drug companies, often in the form of gifts and remuneration for meals, travel, speaking engagements and medical research.

According to Mercury News, pharmaceutical companies gifted more than $14 million to California doctors who treat foster children from 2010 to 2013. While many physicians are courted by the pharmaceutical industry, the figure is nearly double what drug makers gave to the typical California physician.

The investigation also revealed that the drug companies rewarded frequent prescribers. Doctors who wrote more than 75 prescriptions to foster children in a year received more payments than those who wrote fewer.

“These figures suggest these doctors are not looking out primarily for the kids’ interests,” UCLA social welfare professor David Cohen told Mercury News. “They suggest many doctors are looking out for their financial interests, and we should all be wary.”

Following the report, advocacy group Consumer Watchdog called on California lawmakers to investigate the misuse of psychotropic medication in the foster care system. To protect all patients and eliminate conflicts of interest, the group has also urged the state legislature to pass a law expressly prohibiting payments by pharmaceutical companies to doctors.

Late last month, Senators Mike McGuire and Jim Beall conducted a joint legislative hearing on the issue. According to Consumer Watchdog, lawmakers are also considering legislation to require the collection and review of data regarding the prescribing of psychotropic medications to foster children. We will be closely following this issue and will provide updates as they become available.