Clozapine is a second-generation antipsychotic typically used for refractory schizophrenia or otherwise psychotic pathology. There are no FDA or manufacturer guidelines for use of clozapine in pediatric population. We investigated the current state of research concerning the use of clozapine in pediatric patients.
Areas of Uncertainty:
We describe consistent calls for more research into the long-term and short-term effects of clozapine use in a young patient population. Despite the strongly supported efficacy, questions concerning clear indications for use and risk–benefit analysis persist. We acknowledge that a more comprehensive meta-analysis would greatly benefit the field. However, this is the first article of its kind for clozapine in recent history, and therefore, serves as a focus and reference point for future, more in-depth analyses.
We conducted a search of PubMed, ClinicalKey, PsycINFO, and MEDLINE databases. Keywords used included, in varying combinations: clozapine, off-label, indications, children and adolescent, pediatric, behavioral, suicidality, psychosis, early and very-early onset schizophrenia, side-effect profile, and long-term use. Further criteria and selection are described in Methods below.
We describe the documented efficacy of clozapine for the management of refractory psychotic and nonpsychotic symptoms in the pediatric population. The authors highlight the risk of unmanaged early-onset schizophrenia, aggressive or suicidal behavior, and severe nonpsychotic pathology. Unfortunately, these studies are generally small. There is little consistency in when clozapine is prescribed, how long it is administered, and how long patients are followed. Despite the lack of FDA and manufacturer guidelines, clozapine continues to be used for the benefit of young patients.
Indications for prescription of clozapine should be revisited, given the data presented in this manuscript of a low risk–benefit ratio for properly chosen patients. Larger studies should be conducted to provide more statistical power and determine clear guidelines for use, risk of side effects, and long-term adverse events that may arise.