Just a Spoonful of Sugar: Drug Safety for Pediatric Populations

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Children deserve optimal medical care. Although prescription drugs play a prominent and essential role in pediatric health care delivery, health care providers often must make prescribing decisions for their young patients based on imperfect or absent safety and efficacy data for pediatric populations. The safe and effective use of prescription drugs in children depends on a thorough understanding of the physiologic differences between children and adults. Currently, only one-third of drugs prescribed to children have been studied for safety and efficacy in pediatric populations. Until relatively recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) made surprisingly little effort to improve the quality or quantity of clinical research data for this patient group. Recent agency efforts to encourage pediatric drug research have generated mixed results and created unintended consequences. The development, prescribing, and safety evaluation of prescription drugs for children will require that the FDA and health care providers examine current practices, acknowledge their shortcomings, and consider creative solutions to the challenges associated with gathering additional data through pediatric drug research.

Recommended Citation

37 J.L. Med. & Ethics 280 (2009)