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Codeine is often prescribed for kids in spite of possible harmful effects

Bottles of prescription drugs

There have been warnings about the possible side effects from prescribing codeine for kids and yet the prescribing continues. A study has found codeine is often prescribed to children despite the availability of alternatives reported the University of California San Fransisco on April 21, 2014.

According to new research done at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco despite its potentially harmful side effects in children codeine continues to be regularly prescribed in U.S. emergency rooms. Sunitha Kaiser, MD, UCSF assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco and study lead author, says it is important to lower codeine prescription to children in other settings such as clinics and hospitals, as well as emergency rooms.

Codeine is an opioid which is used to treat mild to moderate pain and to suppress cough. Due to variability in how kids process the drug, it has been observed about a third receive no symptom relief from taking it, while up to one in 12 may accumulate toxic amounts which cause breathing to slow down and possible death. Solutions to this problem include changing provider prescription behaviors in order to promote the use of better alternatives to codeine such as ibuprofen or hydrocodone.

This study has been published in the journal Pediatrics. Although national guidelines have recommended against codeine use in kids, little has been known about prescribing patterns in the United States. Researchers at UCSF decided to assess changes over time in pediatric codeine prescription rates in emergency departments nationally while also determining factors associated with codeine prescription.

The researchers found although there was a small decline in codeine prescription over a period of 10 years, use for cough or URI did not decline after national guidelines recommened against its use. It is their conclusion that more effective interventions are necessary to prevent codeine prescription to children. With the lives of children literally on the line from the continued prescribing of codeine this is very important study with very important conclusions which physicians should certainly take seriously.

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