FDA Panel Recommends Ban on Cold Medicines for Kids

Shannon, who filed the original petition with the FDA in March and was slated to testify at the hearings, doesn't think that last week's recall by manufacturers goes far enough. It only affects children under 2 and not children between 2 and 5, who make up two-thirds of those taking the drugs, he noted.

"They made an effort, but it was nowhere near far enough," Shannon said.

In addition, these cold products simply don't work, according to Shannon. "There is no reason to give something that costs money, is ineffective, and has potential risks," he said.

Linda A. Suydam is president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA), which represents manufacturers of nonprescription medicines. In a statement, she said that, "The reason the makers of over-the-counter oral cough and cold medicines for infants are voluntarily withdrawing these medicines is that there have been rare patterns of misuse leading to overdose recently identified, particularly in infants, and safety is our top priority."

As for child safety, the CHPA said that "serious adverse events associated with over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are very rare," and are almost always caused by overdose, "which underscores the need for proper storage and safekeeping of these medicines."

But Shannon remains concerned. "These drugs interact with other drugs. These drugs have exaggerated effects on children who have other illnesses," he said.

And nothing conquers the common cold, he added.

"We have to accept the fact that there are no real treatments for the cold," Shannon said. "It's a mistake to think that there are medications that are really going to make a cold go away sooner or make the child feel much better. Medication for fever works, but these medications for cough suppression do not treat the common cold."

Another expert agreed with Shannon.

"Colds take a lot of time to nurture, and the medicines don't really speed up that process at all," said Catherine Tom-Revzon, clinical pharmacy manager at Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York City.

Tom-Revzon believes that rather than risking potential harm from these medications, it's better to remove them from the market.

An FDA review of records filed with the agency between 1969 and September 2006 found 54 reports of deaths in children associated with decongestant medicines made with pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine. It also found 69 reports of deaths associated with antihistamine medicines containing diphenhydramine, brompheniramine or chlorpheniramine.

Most of the deaths involved children younger than 2.

More information

For more on cold remedies for children, visit the American Academy of Pediatrics.

SOURCES: Oct. 19, 2007, news conference, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with John K. Jenkins, M.D., director Office of New Drugs, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, FDA; Catherine Tom-Revzon, Pharm.D, clinical pharmacy manager, Children's Hospital at Montefiore, New York City; Michael Shannon, M.D., M.P.H., chief, Division of Emergency Medicine, Children's Hospital, Boston; Oct. 18, 2007, statement, Consumer Healthcare Products Association, Washington, D.C.; Oct. 19, statement, First Focus, Alexandria, Va.; The New York Times; Associated Press

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