Although they can do wonderful things, many medications react unpredictably to the ongoing growth of childhood and the associated, often subtle hormonal fluctuations. Since clinical trials have been minimal, these reactions have only been discovered when experienced by families who depended on the medication as a way to help their little one cope with whatever symptoms had been bothering them.
If some children need medication as much as some adults do, why haven’t even common drugs been tested for their use?
The biggest reason I could find for this horrific lapse is that the pharmaceutical companies didn’t foresee profit being made from that demographic. It wasn’t only because kids were seen as little adults or because of some societal prejudice against them, but mostly because clinical tests with children wouldn’t yield the profits the corporations were looking for.
Another reason is that it’s harder to get pediatric volunteers for medication testing, outside of life-threatening conditions like cancer and certain chronic conditions. What parent would want to risk their children’s lives or health testing a medication for something that wouldn’t ultimately kill them, or may have alternate treatment methods already?
Clinicians also need specialized training on how to care for children and their families. Part of the challenge of working with kids in the medical arena is the need for a gentle, understanding touch, because they are suffering already, while still using the firmness necessary to do potentially unpleasant things.
It’s a tough balance to get, and a big reason why I didn’t go into the medical field.
Finally, it can be very hard to get accurate data on some side effects, owing to the communication barriers that naturally come with all children’s physical, mental and emotional development
However, as difficult as testing on kids can be, if they’re going to be put on meds, those medications must undergo rigorous testing before they’re put on the market, even if they historically have not. This is especially worrying, when you think about some still misunderstood things, like ADHD, are treated by default with medication.
The last 20 years have seen an increase in regulations regarding medication and kids, though. Unfortunately, it took lawsuits in reaction to side effects that vary in severity from abnormal breast growth in little boys to cardiac problems and death in the general pediatric population to draw governmental attention.
It’s hard to think about how so much suffering could have been avoided if clinical pediatric testing was a normal part of the drug approval process from the start.
Even then, errors are still made in how medication is given, and I think there always will be.
Medications and vaccines given in schools could be dangerous when those administering them give them to the wrong child, or disregard the absence of a parental consent form. Although it shouldn’t need saying, these lapses can have deadly consequences. Whether it’s the lack of access to emergency medication, like inhalers for asthmatic students during acute attacks, stimulants given to a child with suspected ADHD, or vaccines given to kids at high risk of allergy or severe side effects, those mistakes can have devastating effects.
What exactly can parents do to ensure the safety of their children?
Since many drugs are still being tested, and many regulations hadn’t been put into effect until the early 2000s, there’s still not as much information available on medication’s effect on the pediatric population as there is on adults. That doesn’t mean parents can’t do as much research as possible on prescriptions, doctor track records or available alternatives.
If you’re reading my blog, obviously you have access to the internet, which means you can find other parents to talk to. Others’ experience can be an invaluable tool, as they may have tried therapies that you may never have heard of, and can commiserate with the unique challenges that come with parenting a child in need of therapy.
As with everything, if your child is on a medication that may need to be administered at school, always educate yourself on school policies and local laws as soon as you can. It may be a good idea to talk to other parents, and look up past lawsuits, if possible.
Even if things are still in flux, education and the determination to advocate for your child will go a long way in ensuring their safety and a healthy, happy life.
“Two Students Have Been Vaccinated for Swine Flu Without Parental Consent.” New York Channel 4 30 Oct. 2009 <http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/2-City-Students-Vaccinated-for-Swine-Flu-Without-Consent-Source-67343877.html>
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“ADHD Medications Unsafe for Children, Research Suggests.” Defective Drug: An Awko Law Site <http://www.defectivedrug.com/drugs/adhd/>
Morse, Janice. “Lawsuit Claims Drug Given to Wrong 2nd-Grader.” USA Today News 9 Jan. 2013 <http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/01/09/lawsuit-wrong-drug-given-second-grader/1819687/?showmenu=true>
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“Prior Approval for Atypical Antipsychotics and ADHD Medications.” Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services 03 Aug. 2009 <http://www.hfs.illinois.gov/html/080309n1.html>