The Food and Drug Administration has announced plans to revise standards for over-the-counter cough and cold medications for children, a step that could lead to removing the popular products from the market. In response to rising concerns that the products are ineffective and could be unsafe, the agency says it will revamp the criteria that have allowed the products to remain on drugstore shelves for the first time in decades. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told the Washington Post:
Modern science has advanced since, and this is an opportunity to apply modern science to evaluate these products. This is the beginning of getting drugs that are widely used in children in the over-the-counter world using the same modern approach we’ve started using for prescription drugs.
As the first step in that process, the agency held a special hearing on October 2, 2007. The FDA then began to consider a series of questions, including:
This is the latest response to a petition filed in March 2007 by a group of pediatricians asking the FDA to restrict the use of the products, citing a lack of evidence that they work and mounting evidence they can cause hallucinations, seizures, trouble breathing, heart problems and other complications, including occasionally deaths. The petition contended that the products had been allowed to stay on the market because they were approved at a time when it was not considered appropriate to test medications directly in children. Instead, studies in adults were extrapolated to children, a practice now considered inadequate, according to the petition.
A week before the FDA convened a panel of experts to consider the petition in October 2007, drug makers voluntarily pulled all over-the-counter cough and cold products for children younger than two years old. The companies said, however, the problems were “overwhelmingly caused by parents accidentally giving overdoses.” After an exhaustive review, the panel concluded that there was little evidence the remedies worked for children younger than 12 years of age. They recommended that the products not be used at all in those younger than six and called for new research to establish their safety and effectiveness directly in children.
In January, the FDA issued a public health advisory formally warning against using the products on children younger than two, but it said the agency was still considering what to do about older children. This latest development was welcomed by critics, who predicted the process would eventually result in the products being pulled from the market. Baltimore Health Commissioner Joshua Sharfstein, who led the FDA petition, observed:
It’s a significant step forward. This is how the agency can take these products off the market. I think this signals the agency is going to apply a modern standard of safety and efficacy to these products, and that is a standard these products cannot pass.
The industry, however, has vowed to keep the products on the market, saying they offer relief for older children as long as they are used according to directions. The drugmakers seem to be confident that products would remain on the market. This matter will be watched closely.
Source: Washington Post
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