OTC Risks & Children

Posted by Pharmacist on July 09, 2011

Despite Warnings, Doctors Are Still Not Consistent About OTC Risks for Children

In 2008, the FDA released a formal recommendation advising against using of over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicine to treat children under the age of two. This recommendation was released for two reasons: lack of actual clinical benefit and serious health risks to the children. After this recommendation was released, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) agreed to change product labels on OTC medicines to include “do not use” in children under 4 years of age.

Despite these warnings, the March 2011 issue of Pharmacy Today that 60 percent of parents give their children aged two years and younger OTC cough and cold medicine. More than 50 percent of those parents polled said they were advised such products were safe by their pediatrician, and 50 percent were told by their doctors that OTC cough and cold medicines were effective for treating children.

The C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health quoted in the article found there are economic and racial disparities among those using OTC cough and cold remedies for their children. 80 percent of Black parents and 69 percent of Hispanic parents were more likely to treat with OTCs, compared to 57 percent of white parents. At the same time, 80 percent of those who earned an annual income of less than $30,000 were likely to use OTC remedies, while only 41 percent of those who earned $100,000 would do the same.

Family doctors and pharmacists are on the front lines of informing parents about potential risks of OTC cough and cold medicine; on its website, the FDA parents speak to a health care professional regarding any concerns they may have about OTC drugs. “Kids will be safer when parents and doctors are all on the same page in limiting these medications to older children,” said Matthew Davis, MD, Associate Professor in the University of Michigan Medical School.

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