June 12, 2013
Metabolic Syndrome Drugs Contribute to Pediatric
Poisoning Problem

Boston—With adults taking more prescription medications than ever, pediatric poisoning from misuse of those medications also is on the increase.

A new study points out how more than 70,000 children are evaluated in hospital emergency departments for unintentional medication exposures and poisonings each year, and 12% of those are hospitalized.

While opioids present the greatest risk of poisoning, common drugs such as diabetes medications, statins, and beta-blockers also are among the culprits, according to the study published in the journal Pediatrics.

“Nontherapeutic medication ingestions continue to be a major pediatric health problem, with recent increases in ingestions despite a number of public health interventions,” the authors write.

Researchers employed two databases to compare monthly pediatric poisonings with the number of prescriptions written for adults from 2000 through 2009.

The greatest risk of poisoning was among small children up to age 5, followed by teenagers, according to the study. Lipid medications and beta-blockers were most likely to send children to the ED, but serious injuries and hospitalizations occurred most often with opioids and diabetes medications.

The authors note that the Poisoning Prevention Packaging Act of 1970 mandated the use of child resistant packaging for prescription medications and “is credited with making pediatric fatalities from medication exposures and poisonings relatively uncommon in the United States,” pointing out that the 2008 Preventing Overdoses and Treatment Exposures Task Force has promoted a new generation of safety packaging.

“Our work suggests that even though these programs may be effective, child exposures and poisonings continue to be a significant and increasing problem, and interventions need to take into account the increases in adult prescriptions available to children,” they add.

The report calls for the development of specific strategies to prevent prescription drug ingestion by children, noting that those strategies must take into account both the specific ages of children and particular types of medication.

Researchers recommend that health care professionals discuss medication storage with parents, focusing on the child’s “age and intention.”

“Increasing adult drug prescriptions are strongly associated with rising pediatric exposures and poisonings, particularly for opioids and among children 0 to 5 years old,” according to the study. “These associations have sizable impacts, including high rates of serious injury and health care use.”

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect