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Giving Medication to Children: A Q & A with Dianne Murphy, M.D.

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Most of the time, these panels did not have pediatric studies and were mostly using information collected in adults to determine if the product could be used in children.

Q: What are the challenges with testing medications in children?

A: There have been numerous challenges to studying drugs in children involving ethical, scientific, and commercial considerations.

There are extra protections for children enrolled in clinical trials because they cannot give consent and there must be compelling reasons why a trial should be conducted in the pediatric population.

Pediatric trials are in general more difficult to carry out because you must have special facilities, laboratory and radiological services, and staff who know how to work with children and their families.

Also, the market for pediatric products is small compared to the adult market because children are generally healthy and are a smaller part of the population. The high cost and difficulties associated with these trials are not attractive to sponsors who make these products.

Q: Should OTC medications be given to a child?

A: Parents need to weigh the benefit of treating the child’s symptoms against the risk of any adverse affects of the drugs. For the common cold, for example, the symptoms will run their course. Remember, OTC cough and cold products do not treat the underlying cause of the problem. They treat the symptoms.

Read the labels to make sure the product is appropriate for your child’s age. Just because a product’s box says that it is intended for children does not mean it is intended for children of all ages.

Also, be sure that you understand the possible side effects so you can be aware that it may not be the disease that is causing a symptom.

Q: What should parents keep in mind when giving medication to children?

A: Know that children can have different adverse reactions to a drug than adults. So for a product that has not been studied in children, it is possible for an adverse effect to occur that may not be listed on the drug’s label.