North Carolina Researchers Examine Prescription Drug Medical Errors
Use of Prescription Drugs Not Tested in Children
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently announced an important new series of medical studies by the Pediatric Trials Network, a collaboration between NIH and Duke University’s Clinical Research Institute, the world’s largest academic clinical research organization. Researchers will study the effects of medical drugs and medical devices on children – an important and often overlooked area of study.
Surprisingly, clinical trials of prescription drugs and medical devices are often conducted only on adult men. Women and children are often excluded, which means doctors must make educated guesses as to the proper dosages and treatments for these patients – guesses that are sometimes wrong, resulting in injuries to children. Often, these calculations are based on body weight, but infants and children may metabolize drugs differently than adults. Efforts to integrate more women into clinical trials have been underway for the past few decades, but this new collaboration represents the largest study of children.
The study is expected to focus on drugs that have been on the market for some time and are no longer covered by patents (i.e. generic drugs). The researchers will look at a variety of therapeutic areas, such as cancer, infectious diseases, and respiratory diseases. The first study is expected to examine the optimal dosing of blood pressure drugs in children.
While the study is a welcome development, parents must also do their part to guard against doctor and hospital errors in prescription drug dosages. Dosages for children are often calculated based on the child’s weight, but the calculations are based on kilograms, not pounds. Doctors can make math errors when converting from pounds to kilograms, so parents should know their child’s weight in kilograms and reconfirm with the doctor that the proper dosage has been made for the child’s weight. Parents must also inform doctors about any and all prescription drugs or supplements that the child is already taking, and any allergies the child has. Parents should also ask what the common side effects of the drugs are, and be on the lookout for these side effects in