Health

Strong Medicine, Bitter Pills

Statistics show that prescription drugs are a surprisingly threat to young children.

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65,000: Average number of children under the age of 5 admitted to emergency rooms annually for accidental ingestion of medications, according to a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in September. Researchers drew on patient records of 453,559 children, collected by poison control centers in the United States between 2001 and 2008. Over that time, the number of ER visits due to the swallowing of painkillers jumped 101 percent. Randall Bond, an ER doctor and pediatrician at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital who led the study, says the uptick coincides with a dramatic boost in sales of opioid drugs. Government records show that prescriptions for oxycodone increased 182 percent between 2000 and 2007, and methadone prescriptions rose 559 percent. Medication is also getting stronger as companies develop time-release formulations. Says Bond, “One 80-milligram tablet of oxycodone can cause a small child to stop breathing and die.”

Reference: G. Randall Bond, Randall W. Woodward, Mona Ho. The Growing Impact of Pediatric Pharmaceutical Poisoning. The Journal of Pediatrics. Published online September 16, 2011. DOI: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2011.07.042

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