Touching Lives - December 2004
Children are not little adults!
Pharmaceutical companies are not required to test the drugs they develop on children or babies. As a consequence, some 40 per cent of drugs given to children are not licensed for that purpose, and 65 percent of drugs administered to newborn babies are unlicensed or licensed only for adults.
GPs and hospital consultants are left to use their own judgement and anecdotal evidence passed on from other medical practitioners to determine what doses will be safe and beneficial for young patients. However, evidence — some of it gathered from Action Medical Research-funded projects — shows that children and adults sometimes respond very differently to the same medicines.
This situation has led to the mis-prescribing of medicines for children, and health experts recently stepped up warnings that antibiotics, painkillers, anti-depressants and asthma treatments were particularly open to this kind of potentially dangerous mis-prescribing.
New paediatric medicines strategy
Action Medical Research has been campaigning on this issue since 2000 so is delighted to report that the Government has announced a new paediatric medicines strategy. The strategy includes provision for:
- Stronger encouragement to pharmaceutical companies to provide better paediatric clinical trial data for new and current medicines;
- Better information on the use of medicines for children in patient information leaflets;
- Publishing, for the first time, a separate British National Formulary for Children. This will give clinicians information on the dosing of medicines for children, their potential side-effects, and so on;
- Promoting research into medicines for children through new research networks.
The new strategy sends a clear message to the pharmaceutical industry that they should focus on the needs of children when developing new medicines. Professor Rosalind Smyth — a former Action Medical Research grantholder — chaired the working group which drafted the strategy. She told Touching Lives, “^These plans have the potential to make a real difference for children, parents and prescribers^ by making sure that existing and new medicines are tailored to the needs of children. Children have the right to the same standards for medicines as adults and this strategy is another step towards achieving this.”
Action Medical Research is very encouraged by these developments, and will be keeping a close eye on progress in the coming months.