The number of children who take medication for chronic diseases has jumped dramatically, another troubling sign that many of the youngest Americans are struggling with obesity, doctors say.

The number of children who take pills for type 2 diabetes — the kind that's closely linked to obesity — more than doubled from 2002 to 2005, to a rate of six out of 10,000 children. That suggests that at least 23,000 privately insured children in the USA are now taking diabetes medications, according to authors of the new study in today's Pediatrics.

Doctors also saw big increases in prescriptions for high cholesterol, asthma and attention deficit and hyperactivity. There was smaller growth for drugs for depression and high blood pressure.

"We've got a lot of sick children," says author Emily Cox, senior director of research with Express Scripts, which administers drug benefit programs for private insurance plans. "What we've been seeing in adults, we're also now seeing in kids."

Most of the increase in drugs for diabetes, attention deficit/hyperactivity and depression was seen in girls. The gender gap was most striking in diabetes: While the number of boys taking medication grew by 39%, the number of girls using them climbed by 147%.

Source: USA Today
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