Medical experts launched a new guide on Tuesday for doctors, pharmacists and health workers to improve prescribing medicines for children.
Many drugs prescribed for children in the European Union have not been specifically tested in young patients so medical professionals have lacked clear guidance on the best treatment and dosage.
The BNF (British National Formulary) for Children, which was launched by the British Medical Association (BMA), provides advice on the best medicines for all types of illnesses for children ranging from newborn to 18-year-olds.
“It is part of a Europe-wide initiative to improve prescribing for children,” Dame Deidre Hine, the president of the BMA, told a news conference.
Prescribing drugs for children is more difficult than for adults because dosages must be tailored to a child’s size and weight. Children may also react differently to drugs than adults.
But few medicines are tested on young patients because of ethical problems in recruiting children for clinical trials and also for financial reasons. Young patients make up a small portion of the pharmaceutical market.
Latest research data
Treatments for every day ailments are licensed for children. But for more serious conditions, doctors may need to use drugs tested on adults which have not been specifically licensed for children.
Scientists estimate that more than two-thirds of children admitted to hospital in European countries are treated with drugs that have not been specifically tested on the young.
“This represents a significant and crucial step in the provision and the use of medicines for children,” said Dr George Rylance, of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health, who helped to compile the guide.
It brings together the latest research data on medicines and doses for children in one volume that will be updated annually.
“For the first time prescribers have a readily available, comprehensive and authoritative prescriber’s guide that goes to all doctors, nurses, dentists and pharmacists,” Rylance added.
The handbook, a joint effort by the BMA and children’s medical societies, will also be published online and made available in developing countries.
Britain is also developing a research network for safe use of medicines in children. The European Union has drawn up draft legislation which will require drug companies to test medicines in children in exchange for six-months of extra patent protection.
It follow a similar move by the United States which introduced legislation on children’s medicine and testing in 1997.