Drug medication errors more likely in prescriptions for children

As folks age, many might assume that they will eventually need to start taking medications on a daily basis in order to maintain their health. Chicago patients might be prescribed blood-pressure medications or other types of drugs to keep their conditions from worsening. With so many Americans taking prescription drugs on a daily basis, it is not uncommon for medication errors to occur amongst adults.

But because most drugs are designed and tested on adults, medication errors are also common amongst children in Illinois and throughout the entire U.S. Only about 50 percent of drugs available have been tested on children. Therefore, doctors typically must guess what the correct or safe dosage is for a child when prescribing a medication. If a doctor makes a wrong guess, children and infants could suffer serious or fatal dosing injuries.

If a child receives too much of a medication, he or she could be poisoned and die of an overdose. If a child receives too little of a medication, his or her symptoms could worsen.

Some drugs do have information for prescribing to children, but 50 percent of them do not, according to a report by the Journal of the American Medical Association. If a doctor must prescribe a drug for a child, and that drug does not have pediatric information, the doctor must guess at the dosage. The doctor often uses a child’s weight to determine the dosage.

U.S. Food and Drug Administration researchers have analyzed drugs listed in the Physicians’ Desk Reference, which contains information on FDA-approved drug labeling. Researchers discovered that only 231 of the 461 drugs that are prescribed to children contain adequate information for a doctor to prescribe the correct dosage for children.

Of the new drugs that were approved by the FDA between 2002 and 2008, researchers counted 105 that could possibly be used for children. But of the 105 drugs, only 43 had enough pediatric information for a doctor to prescribe a proper dosage without guessing.

Harvard researchers completed a study last month that showed that four out of five children who were hospitalized in the U.S. were treated with drugs that were only FDA-approved for adults. In other words, these drugs were not tested on children and the effects of the drugs on children remain unknown. Also, 90 percent of the drugs approved by the FDA have not been tested on infants.

Source: ABC News, “How Do Docs Prescribe Kids’ Meds? Guess,” Carrie Gann, May 8, 2012

Medication Errors


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