Monday, October 12, 2009

Bad drug reactions in over 500,000 children

This is a valuable reminder that the only drugs with no side-effects are ones with no main effects. Valuable drugs can be taken off the market by unreasonable hysteria about entirely predictable side-effects. People should be allowed to make their own informed choices, not have choices made for them by bureaucrats in response to sensation-mongering publicity

Children younger than age 5 are most commonly affected. Penicillin and other prescription antibiotics are among the drugs causing the most problems, including rashes, stomachaches, and diarrhea. Parents should pay close attention when their children are started on medicines because “first-time medication exposures may reveal an allergic reaction,’’ said Dr. Florence Bourgeois, lead author and a pediatrician with Children’s Hospital, Boston. Doctors also should tell parents about possible symptoms for a new medication, she said.

The study appears in October’s Pediatrics, which will be released today. It’s 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.

Bourgeois said there were no deaths resulting from bad reactions to drugs in the data she studied, but 5 percent of children were sick enough to require hospitalization.

The study involved reactions to prescribed drugs, including accidental overdoses. They were used for a range of ailments including ear infections, strep throat, depression, and cancer. Among teens, commonly used medicines linked with troublesome side effects included birth control pills. Bad reactions to these pills included menstrual problems, nausea, and vomiting.

Children younger than 5 accounted for 43 percent of visits to clinics and emergency rooms; followed by teens ages 15 to 18, who made up about 23 percent of the visits. Similar numbers of hospitalized children - about 540,000 yearly - also have bad reactions to drugs, including side effects, medicine mix-ups, and accidental overdoses, recent government research suggests. The new report indicates children at home are just as vulnerable.

Michael Cohen, president of the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, said a common problem involves giving young children liquid medicine. Doses can come in drops, teaspoons, or milliliters, and parents may mistakenly think those amounts are interchangeable.

The study was funded by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


Nutty tax on soft drinks in NYC

Our brawl with New York City’s dietary control freaks is drawing some serious attention. The city is spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to run anti-soft-drink subway ads depicting a soda turning into globs of fat. We’re countering with our own “Big Brother or Big Apple?” ad campaign. Yesterday, The New York Times used this fizzy fight as a lead-in to profile our fight against soda taxes in its “Letter from America” column. Writing for the Times, International Herald Tribune columnist Richard Bernstein asked us why we object to proposals from food activists, like those at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, to reduce soda consumption. We explained:
There are so many reasons. There are ideological reasons, scientific reasons, and policy reasons.

From the ideological point of view, [taxes should not] be a tool for social engineering, to change people’s behaviors. People draw the parallel with tobacco, but there’s a huge chasm of a difference between the two. There’s an incontrovertible link between tobacco and serious diseases. Soda is one of a plethora of products that are overused by some people, but there’s nothing wrong with it per se.

There’s not a shred of evidence that shows that [a soda tax] will work. All the studies show that it will have no impact on obesity rates.

The Times noted that academic research on the ineffectiveness of a soda tax is likely our “strongest argument”:
[W]hether [taxes are] effective or not, there is something to the argument that a government-imposed penalty on Coke and Mountain Dew does represent a nanny-like intrusion.

Is there any indication that the Big Apple food police will ease up on their intrusions? Not exactly. Especially if, like Hizzoner Michael Bloomberg, they don’t practice what they preach.


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