Press Release – May 23, 2017


Teen Pregnancies Linked to Multiple Drug Prescriptions

The more medications are given to teens, the greater the likelihood of pregnancies, study by Wyoming and HCMS Group shows.

Cheyenne, Wyo., May 23, 2017 /PR Newswire/ — Multiple drug prescriptions given to teenage girls correlate with more teen pregnancies, according to a study by the Wyoming Department of Family Services and HCMS Group, a health information company.

Researchers found that girls ages 15 through 18 in the foster care system were often prescribed more than a dozen medications, including powerful narcotics and psychotropics. The simultaneous use of multiple drugs is known as polypharmacy. For teens taking 20 medications or more, the pregnancy rates topped 20 percent, almost 10 times the rate for all girls of those ages, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings “for the first time suggest a correlation between the use of multiple prescription medications and the results of adolescent decision-making leading to underage pregnancies,” the researchers write. “There is ample research showing the life-altering effects of teen pregnancies for young mothers and their children, spanning multiple generations. This study suggests that polypharmacy increases the risks for foster teens.”

The study, soon to be published in Child Welfare, the research journal of the Child Welfare League of America, spotlights the risk of pregnancy associated with multiple prescription drugs for the almost 40,000 girls ages 15 to 18 in U.S. foster care, according to lead author Dr. Hank Gardner, the CEO and principal partner of HCMS Group. While teen pregnancy rates have declined in recent years, polypharmacy has climbed and opioid use has soared.

The researchers compared a group of girls in foster care covered by Medicaid with other girls over 11 years starting in 2003. The foster teens were prescribed many more medications than girls living with their families. Among the foster-care girls, more than 60% had mental-health diagnoses in the 15, 16, and 17 age groups, five times the rate for girls with private health care.

“The findings add to a growing body of evidence that polypharmacy intended to help manage troubled children can instead add a layer of abuse,” the authors conclude. Other investigators were Dr. Steve Corsi and Dr. Marty Nelson of the Wyoming Department of Family Services; and Justin Schaneman, Pamela Pendleton, and Bob Simison of HCMS.

For more information, contact Bob Simison at HCMS,, or 202-210-7981.


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