A new study appearing in trade journal Pediatrics suggests that many parents in the United States could be giving their children overdoses of certain medication.
The study, carried out by Dr. Shonna Yin of NYU Medical School said that “When parents used dosing cups, they had four times the odds of making a dosing error, compared to when they used an oral syringe”.
The Medicine Companies Are to Blame
The journal suggests medicine companies, as opposed to parents, are to blame for the regular overdoses. They suggest that is down to insufficient standards with regards to medical measurements:
“A range of measurement units (eg, milliliter, teaspoon, tablespoon), along with their associated abbreviations, are used as part of instructions on labels and dosing tools, contributing to confusion and multifold errors,”
The study further suggests that those who suffering the most from this are those who have English as their second language, or those who do not speak the language, are most likely to suffer from issues.
Part of a Larger Study
This study was commission by the National Institutes of Health. The research was intended to establish ways in which pharmaceutical companies could reduce the risk of overdose when parents dispensed medicine to their child.
The study discovered the following:
- 4% of the 2,110 caregivers in three locations, Atlanta, New York, and Stanford made dosing errors.
- 68% of those who made dosing errors did so by giving the children more medication than they required. Many of the people who made these errors spoke neither English or Spanish. People were given multiple dosing tools, and they still continued to make the mistakes.
Thankfully, in many cases, the medication difference was minimal which means it should have little to no impact on the health of a child. It is still a major issue, however.
A problem that is out of control
A study in 2011 indicated that one in every 150 two-year-olds had to visit an emergency department after suffering an overdose. While many of these overdoses were the result of children getting hold of medication without supervision, the study also indicated that some of these children suffered an unintentional overdose during the normal course of administering the medication.
Dr. Stan Spinner, Chief Medical Officer at Texas Children’s Pediatrics said “”A lot of people think things like Tylenol or Motrin, because they’re so common and over the counter, are safe, but in actuality, overdoses of those medicines can be serious and even deadly,” (source) which, again, highlights the fact that parents need to be better presented with facts about the medication their children highlighted.
While it is unlikely that pharmaceutical companies will trigger changes in the way in which they label their products, this study is likely to open a discussion. This could lead to long term changes in pharmaceutical practices which could potentially save lives. The fact that the study has been published is a great step towards helping children. However, sadly, there are currently no regulations in place and there are no plans to introduce regulations which can help with standardization.