Pediatric Psychopharmacology: To Use Or Not To Use At The End Of Life


Pediatric Psychopharmacology: To Use Or Not To Use At The End Of Life


Maryland Pao







Psychological symptoms ranging from distress to more debilitating depression and anxiety with worsening somatic symptoms can hamper communication, particularly at the end-of-life. Treatment with psychotropic medications may be useful for symptomatic and syndromic relief.


A review of the evidence base for psychotropic medication use in pediatric psychooncolgy and of the Micromedex database regarding FDA indications and approvals for medications used in children was conducted.


No published randomized controlled trials were found. Barriers to conducting such trials e.g. multiple medical diagnoses, multiple medical treatment regimens, severity of medical illness, psychosocial factors, stigma of psychiatric diagnoses, subthreshold psychiatric diagnoses and fear of psychiatric medications will be reviewed. FDA-approved psychotropic medications for use in children with delirium, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and symptom relief (i.e. insomnia), including off-label use, will be presented. Side effects and common drug-drug interactions will also be discussed.


Approaches to help children address emotional and physical concerns at the end of life can include pharmacologic approaches which may enhance a child's ability to communicate or fully utilize other psychosocial interventions and therapies.

Research Implications

To date, there are no randomized controlled trials using different psychopharmacologic interventions in pediatric oncology patients for mental health symptoms or disorders. A multidisciplinary effort could overcome barriers to undertake such trials which could add useful clinical information to the field.


Article information provided for research and reference use only. PedPalASCNET does not hold any rights over the resource listed here. All rights are retained by the journal listed under publisher and/or the creator(s).

Citation List Month

June 2016 List


Maryland Pao, “Pediatric Psychopharmacology: To Use Or Not To Use At The End Of Life,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed May 31, 2023,