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Globe Editorial

Kids’ medicine: Doses and dopes

December 8, 2010

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It’s hard enough caring for a sick child; converting teaspoons to drams at 4 a.m. shouldn’t be part of the challenge. But until the FDA requires the manufacturers of over-the-counter children’s medicine to make dosing cups logical or even accurate, children are at risk for accidental overdoses.

The Journal of the American Medical Association found that 98.6 percent of dosing devices for children’s oral liquid medicines have problems such as missing markings, superfluous markings, and, worse, units of measurement that don’t match the directions on the label. And these aren’t just obscure brands: The sample covered 99 percent of the market, including top-selling liquid medicines that treat pain, colds, allergies, and gastroinestinal problems and have dosing information for children 12 years and younger.

In 2009, the FDA released voluntary industry guidelines recommending greater consistency. That’s not enough; enforced consistency and accuracy in children’s medicine instructions and dosing devices is an obvious need. Until those regulations grow teeth, parents will need to do the footwork to keep their children safe and healthy. Before taking children’s OTC medication home, parents should ask a pharmacist to mark the enclosed dosing device in the exact right place for the specific child taking the medicine.

Meanwhile, the FDA should administer some medicine of its own — to the companies making those products.