(NaturalNews) The number of girls between the ages of 5 and 19 taking prescription drugs for diabetes increased 147 percent between 2002 and 2005, according to a study conducted by researchers from Saint Louis University School of Medicine, the Kansas Health Institute, and the private company Express Scripts, and published in the journal Pediatrics. The prevalence of other chronic diseases among both boys and girls also increased dramatically in that time.
"We've got a lot of sick children," said researcher Emily Cox of Express Scripts. "What we've been seeing in adults, we're also now seeing in kids."
Researchers examined the prescription records of almost four million children every year between 2002 and 2005, using the Express Scripts patient database. Because the company only administers prescription drug benefits for private insurers, the researchers noted that their findings might not apply to uninsured or government-insured children.
The researchers found the largest increase in the use of diabetes drugs -- more than a 50 percent increase in all children between 5 and 19. Among boys, the increase was only 39 percent, compared with 147 percent in girls. Among girls between 10 and 14, the increase was 166 percent.
Researchers attributed the overall rise of diabetes drug use to increased obesity among children, but could not explain the sex difference.
The use of asthma drugs increased by 46.5 percent over the same time period, while the use of hyperactivity drugs increased by 40.4 percent. Use of cholesterol drugs among children increased by 15 percent, and blood pressure drug use increased by 1.8 percent.
"Our study findings indicate that these increased levels of chronic medication use are symptoms of broader underlying issues affecting children today," Cox said. "These trends are worrisome given that many of these therapies are treating conditions with modifiable risk factors and if not addressed, many of these children will carry these chronic conditions into adulthood."