Hospitalized Kids Overmedicated, Study Finds

Sep 5, 2011 4:00pm

By KIM CAROLLO

Many children receive multiple medications while they are hospitalized even though there may be safety concerns about some of the drugs, according to a new study.

Researchers led by Dr. Chris Feudtner of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia analyzed 2006 data from more than 580,000 pediatric patients from 463 hospitals across the country.

The number of different medications a child typically received varied depending on age, length of hospitalization and whether they were at a children’s hospital or a regular hospital.

“[A] large proportion of hospitalized children were exposed to 5 or more drugs and therapeutic agents during each day of their hospitalization,” the authors wrote.

Some children, they found, received as many as 13 different drugs throughout their hospital stays.  After a weeklong stay, a number of children received 35 different drugs.  Children with rare conditions were more likely to receive a greater number of medications.

Among the drugs children most often received were acetaminophen, albuterol (often used for asthma) and antibiotics.   A number of drugs the children received were used for off-label indications.

While there have been studies on multiple medications in adult populations, the authors say their data suggest the need for more research into the safety of these drugs as well as certain drug combinations in children.

“[P]olypharmacy … has been shown to be associated with an increased risk of adverse drug reactions in adult patients in intensive care units and other settings,” they wrote.

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