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How Safe Are Adult Drugs When Prescribed to Young People?

Kingston Personal Injury Attorney

Today there are a variety of drugs on the market. Here’s a staggering statistic: according to Medco Health Solutions, Inc. – the nation’s largest pharmacy benefits manager – more than one quarter of American children take a prescription for a chronic ailment. While pharmaceutical science has helped redefine the practice of medicine, one area of medicine has remained lacking: patient safety research on adult medications prescribed to children and young people.

According to Medco, children were the leading demographic for pharmaceutical increases in 2009. Millions of American children now take medications for hormonal, endocrine, diabetic, mental health and even cardiac conditions. Yet, according to Duke University researchers, only 10 percent of these medications have been adequately tested for use in children – leading to the possibility that at least some of these are dangerous drugs for children.

For years, researchers have known that children’s bodies do not process and eliminate drugs the same as adult bodies do. The brain and other systems are impacted differently. And depending on the side effects of medication, children and youth may suffer developmental delays. Bodies and minds may suffer lasting negative psychological and physical problems. Also, because of the lack of established dosing standards associated with prescribing adult pharmaceuticals, younger patients are at an increased risk of dosing errors and related complications.

As recently as last year, the FDA issued a public health advisory regarding Adderall and Adderall XR, drugs commonly used to treat attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity.

The lack of pediatric medication trials has been a long-term problem, as demonstrated by the various attempts by the federal government to devise ways to examine the safety of prescription drugs on minors. Almost seven years ago, Congress passed the original Best Pharmaceuticals for Children Act (BPCA). Reauthorized in 2007, the BPCA was devised to help ensure that safe medicines enter the market. Even last year, the Pediatric Trials Network, an initiative of the National Institutes of Health, was created to reduce the risks associated with pediatric medication dosing, efficacy and safety.

The increased use of pharmaceuticals for children and young people has been a long-term trend, but the lack of study on the potential effects that adult medications have on children is a serious public health issue, as well as a breach of the medical profession and federal and pharmaceutical companies’ duties to ensure safe medications are made available to the public.