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Major Study Shows Many Medications Given to Children Tested Only for Adults

A major study finds that 80 percent of children in U.S. hospitals receive medication that has been tested and approved only for adults. This often leaves pediatricians to a potentially dangerous assumption that if a drug works for adults, it will also be safe for children. VOA's Carol Pearson has more on the study and its implications.

When parents entrust their sick children to a hospital staff, Dr. Daniel Benjamin of Duke University says most parents are unaware of this disturbing fact. "Most of the time when we're treating children, we don't know if we have the right drug, how safe it is, and what the right dose is."

Dr. Benjamin says he thinks about this every time he prescribes a medication for a child. "Regularly, I worry, 'Is this product going to do more damage to this child? Is this product going to do more harm than the disease is doing?' "

A study by Children's Hospital of Philadelphia concludes that nearly four out of five hospitalized children in the U.S. receive medications tested only for adults.

While the study only looked at medicine prescribed in hospitals, Dr. Samir Shah, the study's lead author says outside the hospital, the same is true: children receive the same medicines adults receive.

Another pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Dr. Peter Adamson, points out that children and adults can react to drugs much differently. "The changes in muscle, bone, water, protein, fat, all could impact what happens to a drug."

The study shows that the consequences can be serious or even deadly. Doctors often have no other choice but to prescribe these medications, especially for critically ill children.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to encourage pharmaceutical companies to increase the number of drugs tested for children. The authors of the children's study call for even more information to be gathered on medications that are commonly prescribed for children but not tested for them.