To date, there has been no large, population-based study estimating the prevalence of psychotropic medication use and cooccurring medical conditions among children with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD). In addition, it is not known how psychotropic medication use varies by mental health status of the children with FASD and their health insurance coverage. This study attempts to fill this gap by analyzing a large health insurance claims database covering Medicaid and private insurance.


The study used the 2017 IBM Watson Health MarketScan Multistate Medicaid and Commercial Claims databases. The sample for the analysis includes children between the ages of 0 and 17 with either an FASD diagnosis or a mental health diagnosis (N = 848 721 Medicaid; N = 511 061 private insurance).


More than half of the children with an FASD diagnosis were prescribed psychotropic medications (63% Medicaid; 57% private). Utilization rates of psychotropic medication among children with cooccurring FASD and a mental health condition (79% Medicaid; 71% private) were higher compared to children with a mental health diagnosis but no FASD (57% Medicaid; 57% private). Stimulants were the most commonly prescribed. Encephalopathy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and epilepsy were the 3 most common cooccurring diagnosis among children with FASD using psychotropic medication under Medicaid compared to encephalopathy, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and anxiety with private insurance.


These results exemplify the complexity of the neurobehavioral profile of children with FASD and the challenge of treatment. Future studies may determine how supportive services for these children will affect psychotropic medication use.

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