MUSC Study Has Alarming Findings On Babies And Toddlers

The Charleston prescription drug injury lawyers found that according to a study conducted by the Medical University of South Carolina, doctors and pharmacists may be giving babies and toddlers overdoses of prescription painkillers, says an article in yesterday’s Post and Courier. The research was done by the Division of General Pediatrics at MUSC, and they hope the study’s findings will lead to more cautious and possibly automatic drug dispensing. The division will now study whether these overdoes led to any harm or serious child injuries.

The research, which was presented at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Denver, studied South Carolina Medicaid records (from 2000 to 2006) of the top 19 narcotic-containing drugs prescribed to newborns up to age 3.

The findings were as follows. 4.1 percent of actual prescriptions were overdoses. About 40 percent of overdose prescriptions were dispensed to babies 2 months old and younger, and only 3 percent of prescriptions for children older than a year. Of all the overdose prescriptions, the amount of narcotic drug dispensed was an average of 42 percent more than expected.

The study assumed each child’s weight was in the 97th percentile for his/her weight. The MUSC Division of General Pediatrics’ research was done using a four-year, $508,000 federal grant from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

According to the Director of MUSC’s Division of General Pediatrics, narcotics (codeine and hydrocodone) are prescribed to babies as a cough suppressant and painkiller, but these can be dangerous to youngsters because of their sedative effects. These effects increases the risk of dehydration because infants and toddler do not wake up enough to eat and drink while under the influence of these drugs. Severe side effects of narcotics on babies and toddler could lead to breathing problems and death.

Also according to the Division Director, all the narcotics in question were administered in liquid form, and earlier research has shown that wide errors occurs when drugs are administered in their liquid forms, even when the proper dosages are prescribed. Hence the need for an automated dispensing process in which doses would be precisely calculated based the child’s exact weight in order to prevent overdoses and serious drug injuries.

The wrongful death attorneys at Howell and Christmas know that the improper use medications can lead to serious injury, long term disability and even death. Doctors have a responsibility to make sure their patients, or the parents of child patients, know the risks and dangers of taking drugs prescribed so that they can an educated decision as to whether they want to take said risks and take the medication being recommended. Furthermore, pharmacists also have duties to patients to ensure they fill the correct prescriptions with the appropriate dosage.

In the event that a pharmaceutical drug causes injury or death, legal action can be taken against the drug manufacturer based upon theories of negligence, breach of warranty, and/or strict liability. Action also can be taken against a doctor or pharmacist if either or both were negligent in performing their duties related to the drug.

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