Keeping Cough Syrup From Toddlers
Each year, American parents spend an estimated $300 million on non-prescription children's cold remedies. More than a third of all households buy the medicines. A recent study found that in any given week, around 10 percent of U.S. children are taking them. But much disagreement remains among doctors, health experts, drug companies and federal officials about their safety and efficacy.
Yesterday, a top Food and Drug Administration official rejected a call by doctors' groups and others to ban over-the-counter cough and cold products for children under 6. Today, drug companies took a partial step anyway, advising parents not to allow children under age 4 to take the medicines.
That boosts the previous health advisory which said the medicines shouldn't be given to children under 2.
But the change does not go as far as a panel for the Food and Drug Administration, which recommended last year that children up to age 6 should not use such medicines because their effectiveness has not been studied in kids, and the risks outweigh their benefits.
The under-6 provision is supported by groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, which says there is not enough research to show how the products affect children.
Many doctors point to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that about 7,000 children a year, ages 11 and younger go to hospital emergency rooms after taking cold and cough medicines, about two-thirds of them ingested without a parent or caregiver nearby. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 are most often affected.
Two months ago, researchers in Arizona reported that 10 "unexpected" infant deaths in that state in 2006 were associated with over-the-counter cold medicines.
The cold-medicine industry group, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, says that the medicines are safe if used properly. Excluding accidental overdoses, serious "adverse events" from use of the drugs in 2- to -6-year-olds occur about once in every 20 million doses, the group says.
By The Editors |
October 7, 2008; 7:30 PM ET
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