updated 4/11/2008 11:04:28 AM ET 2008-04-11T15:04:28

A hospital group says more needs to be done to prevent medication errors in children.

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A safety alert issued Friday by the group comes days after the release of a study finding that drug mix-ups and overdoses harm roughly one out of 15 hospitalized children, a number far higher than earlier estimates. The accidental blood thinner overdose of actor Dennis Quaid’s newborn twins last November has turned public attention to the issue.

“This is strongest statement on record to date that children have unique safety needs,” said Dr. Matthew Scanlon of Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, who helped write the warning from the Joint Commission, an independent organization that accredits most of the nation’s hospitals.

The alert calls on hospitals to weigh children in kilograms when admitted. Weight in kilograms is standardly used to calculate proper doses for children, but some hospitals still weigh them in pounds, increasing the risk of a doubled-dose, Scanlon said.

Hospitals also should clearly mark products that have been repackaged from adult formulations for use with children, the alert says. Hospitals should keep adult medications away from pediatric care units and avoid storing adult and children’s medicines in the same automatic dispensing machine or drug cabinet.

The warning reminds hospitals that pediatric errors are common, but avoidable.

“The Quaid incident is excellent example of that,” said Dr. Peter Angood, vice president of the hospital group, which is based in suburban Chicago.

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