More than 25 percent of U.S Children on Medications
December 31, 2010
The rate of prescription drug use among children and teens continues to rise, with a new report from Medco Health Solutions Inc. saying that at least a quarter of all U.S. children are now regularly taking pharmaceutical drugs. And according to the report, many of these drugs were originally intended for adults, and carry with them unknown side effects for long-term use in young people.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports that in addition to taking drugs for conditions like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and asthma, children are now taking things like sleeping pills, diabetes drugs and even statin drugs, which are typically only prescribed for adults. The report cites an eight-year-old boy, for example, who has been taking blood pressure medications since he was a baby.
Dr. Danny Benjamin, a professor of pediatrics at Duke University, admitted to the WSJ that prescribing chronic medications to children is a serious problem. “We know we’re making errors in dosing and safety,” he said, noting also that parents must do more to question the safety of medicines their doctors prescribe.
Experts worry that the increasing prevalence of children on prescription drugs is causing these young people serious harm, and that parents should instead seek out dietary and lifestyle changes for their children. But because many doctors continue to dole out the drugs like candy, despite known dangers, many parents just accept them for their children without giving it a second thought.
And the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has done little, if anything, to warn the public about the dangers of using chronic prescription drugs, especially in small children. Safety studies in young people are not necessarily required in order for doctors to prescribe adult medications to children, as long as the drug is already FDA-approved.