Association Between Weight Promoting Medication Use and Weight Status Among Children and Adolescents in the United States



      The objectives of this study were to 1) examine the prevalence of prescription medication use overall and 2) examine the association between weight promoting medication (WPM) use by therapeutic class and weight status among a nationally representative sample of the children and adolescents in the United States. This study also further investigated antidepressant medication use among this population.


      This cross-sectional study used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2013 to 2018. Children and adolescents ages 2 to 19 years were included in this study.


      Of the 68,057,468 derived participants (34,507,154 [50.7%] male; 33,564,059 [49.3%] aged 2–10 years; 34,905,058 [51.3%] non-Hispanic White), 14,895,618 (22.2%) used a prescription medication in the prior 30 days, 21.7% (3,235,323) of which were considered weight promoting. There was no significant difference between weight status and WPM use for overall prescription medication use. Nevertheless, for overall antidepressant medication use, those with obesity were less likely to be prescribed antidepressant WPM when compared to those with normal weight (adjusted odds ratios 0.4; 95% confidence interval 0.2–0.7).


      These findings suggest that although there was no significant association between WPM use and weight status overall when examining the association by therapeutic class, most children with obesity were not using antidepressant WPM. This is reassuring and potentially an active attempt at avoiding the use of medications that have an exacerbating effect on weight gain. When choosing antidepressant medications, providers, parents, and patients consider the WPM effects and appropriately choose a medication best suited to the child's health status.


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