September 13, 2010
Posted: 10:12 AM ET
Brockton, MA - According to three of the four medical experts who testified during Michael Riley’s murder trial, four-year-old Rebecca Riley’s death was either directly due to the effects of the prescription drug clonidine, or clonidine was a contributing factor in her demise. But what exactly is clonidine? And what effect could it potentially have on a child of Rebecca’s age?
Sometimes known by the brand names Catapres and Duraclon, clonidine was originally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a medication to treat hypertension in adults. But over the years it has also come to be prescribed to treat several other medical and psychiatric conditions – a practice that is commonly known as “off-label” use, and not officially sanctioned by the FDA – including insomnia, Tourette’s syndrome, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Rebecca Riley first began taking clonidine in 2004 – she was only two at the time – when Dr. Kayoko Kifuji prescribed it after diagnosing Rebecca with ADHD. But clonidine use in adolescents is a gray area, since no comprehensive studies of the drug’s potential long term effects in children have ever been conducted. The problem with clinical drug studies of children is one of ethics; since children aren’t able to give informed consent to the possibility of potentially dangerous side effects associated with drug testing, it’s considered unethical to use them as study subjects.
What did all that mean for Rebecca Riley? It means that she was regularly ingesting large amounts of a prescription medication that wasn’t designed for use in children, and that she was taking it to improve a condition that the FDA hasn’t approved clonidine to treat.
-Michael Christian, In Session Field Producer
Filed under: Trials
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