Confusion in Children’s Medications

A new study published reports on the confusion and inconsistency in dosing instructions for over-the-counter children’s liquid cough, cold, allergy, pain and stomach medicines.

The report, published online this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at 200 of the best-selling medications of this type, examining the new packaging put in place since the FDA’s publication of voluntary packaging guidelines in 2009.

Their findings cast doubt on the effectiveness of the FDA’s voluntary guidelines. “The current guidance does not contain a timeline for compliance or specify consequences for non-compliance,” explained study co-author Dr. Ruth Parker, of the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “Standards and regulatory oversight will likely be needed to ensure that all products contain label information and dosing device markings that match and are understandable and useful.”

The researchers found that one in every four of the medications failed to contain a dosing device; of those that did, the measuring markings on the enclosed cup, dropper or syringe were inconsistent with the dosing instructions; and more than half of the drugs did not use standard abbreviations for measurement terms.

More than half of the children in the U.S. take one or more drugs weekly, the report stated, and of those, more than half are over-the-counter medications.