Monday, September 28, 2009

Kids' reactions to medications

In today's Washington Post, there is an article about kids reactions to medications.  The article's headline is "bad drug reactions".  I have chosen to use the term medications to emphasize that we are talking about legal prescriptions rather than "drugs" in the sense of illegal drugs. 

The article describes a professional manuscript published in the journal Pediatrics that indicates:
  • "It's [the results are] based on national statistics on patients' visits to clinics and emergency rooms between 1995 and 2005. The number of children treated for bad drug reactions each year was mostly stable during that time, averaging 585,922"
What does this mean? It may mean that physicians and pharmacists don't communicate well with parents. It may mean that parents don't implement well drug administration, regardless of what has been communicated to them. It is not meant to say that the pharmaceutical companies purposefully put dangerous products on the market. It is worth thinking about the economics.

Why is there not better communication? It may be a matter of time and what the physicians and pharmacists are paid for (and ARE NOT paid for).

Why do parents not administer better? It may be a matter of rushed time, also an economic issue.

As 5% of the children needed hospitalizations, this represents over 25,000 hospitalizations per year that result from giving things to try to keep our kids healthy. Given that this is 25,000 out of millions of children, the chance that this will happen to any one child is small. However, it is worth thinking about how much could be spent on better research, better incentives for communication, and better incentives for parents to understand the communication and monitor their children closely when they are given medications. Even at only $4000 per admission for a two day admission, avoiding just the hospitalized cases could save $100 million. This is a drop in the bucket in terms of overall health care spending, but may be well worth the investment to help our children avoid the side effects of trying to keep them healthy.

1 comment:

  1. First, Ignorance is not bliss. Parents need to learn how to properly dose in order to avoid overdosing. Second, Some people believe if 1 is good then 2 is better. Some parents and teens may fall under this misguided behavior.
    Third, I wonder if there would be less overdose hospitalizations in those with limited or no insurance vs. them having more hospitalizations for "true" illness or delayed healthcare. It sounds like there would be a trade-off (or pareto optimal*) in the complication.

    * Johnson-Lans, S. (2006) A Health Economics. Primer.