The 12 medications sending droves of kids to the ED

More than 70K kids are hospitalized each year due to overdoses

More than 70,000 children are hospitalized annually because of accidental medication overdoses, despite increased efforts to child-proof medication containers, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Painkiller nation: How did we get here?

For the study, researchers analyzed adverse drug event data from 2007 to 2011. The report included 1,513 cases in which children were hospitalized after accidentally ingesting prescription drugs.

The study found that 12 types of drugs accounted for more than 75% of the hospitalizations among all age groups. Three of the drugs were painkillers, while some of the others were for treating chronic conditions such as anxiety and diabetes.

Meanwhile, 12 specific medications accounted for 45% of the child hospitalizations:

  • Amlodipine, which treats high blood pressure;
  • Buprenorphine, which treats chronic pain;
  • Bupropion, which treats depression and helps with smoking cessation;
  • Clonazepam, which treats seizures, anxiety;
  • Clonidine, which treats high blood pressure;
  • Glipizide, which treats type II diabetes;
  • Glyburide, which treats type II diabetes;
  • Hydrocodone, which treats chronic pain; and
  • Lisinopril, which treats high blood pressure;
  • Lorazepam, which treats anxiety, depression, and insomnia;
  • Metoprolol, which treats high blood pressure;
  • Oxycodone, which treats chronic pain.

In addition, the study found:

  • 75% of the hospitalizations involved children two years old or younger;
  • About 20% of children took more than one medication at the same time; and
  • 18% of hospitalizations involved opioid painkillers.

Further steps to improve child-proof packaging and to educate people about the potential risks to children need to be taken, according to the study.

Starting next month, hospitals and pharmacies can take your old drugs

Lead researcher Maribeth Lovegrove, an epidemiologist in CDC's Medication Safety Program, suggested that enhanced packaging, such as blister packs that contain individual tablets, could limit children's access to medication (Phillip, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 9/15; Doyle, Reuters, 9/15).

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