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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Under-16s 'should not take aspirin'
Aspirin
There is aspirin in 140 painkillers on sale in the UK
Parents are being told not to give aspirin to children under 16, because of possible links to a rare disease that attacks the brain and liver.

The Medicines Control Agency issued the "safety first" advice because of links between the painkiller and Reye's Syndrome, which children have a one in a million chance of developing.

The drug watchdog is now considering a proposal to make the advice obligatory on all products containing the popular painkiller.

Aspirin use is already banned for under-12s because of the connection with the condition which causes brain swelling and damage to the liver.

The MCA said earlier this year that under-16s should avoid aspirin if they were feverish.

Some brands that include aspirin
Alka-Seltzer XS
Anadin/Anadin Extra
Askit powders
Aspro Clear
Beechams Powders
Codis 500
Disprin
PR tablets
But the feedback it received was that its advice was too complicated, placing the onus on teenagers and their parents to decide what was wrong.

This advice has now been simplified to say under-16s should take paracetamol or ibuprofen instead.

Under-16s may be told to take aspirin if they have a specific condition such as juvenile arthritis or Kawasaki's disease, an inflammation of the blood vessels.

Products affected include Anadin, Disprin, Alka-Seltzer XS and supermarkets' own-brand aspirin products.

Fever

Reye's syndrome is most likely to affect under-fives, but cases are seen in older children.

It can kill within days, or leave the patient with a disability. There is no treatment.

Symptoms can include severe vomiting, drowsiness or loss of consciousness after a viral infection.

The cause of Reye's syndrome is not understood, but it is thought using aspirin when the child has a fever could be a contributing factor.


There is no cause for panic or concern

Professor Alisdair Breckenridge, CSM
It is not known why only some children, and no adults, are affected.

Since advice was given in 1986 not to give aspirin to under-12s, the incidence of Reye's syndrome has decreased.

The last case to be seen in the UK occurred in April this year, when a 13-year-old English girl developed the condition and died. She is thought to have taken aspirin.

There will now be an eight-week consultation period on whether there should be a warning displayed on all aspirin products about the risks of Reye's syndrome.

Information in pharmacies

About 140 products made by 50 companies will be affected.

The MCA will also ask for poster campaigns or information in the pharmacy or supermarket to display the new warning.

Professor Alisdair Breckenridge, chairman of the Committee on the Safety of Medicines (CSM), said it wanted to get the advice out in advance of the cold and flu season.

He said there were plenty of alternatives to aspirin, "so there's really no need for children under the age of 16 to take aspirin and to expose them to this risk, however small that risk is."

Professor Breckenridge said the MCA's advice was "sensible, and non-nannyish".

He added: "I want to be very clear that there is no cause for panic or concern but I also want to ensure that parents and children alike are kept well informed and are aware of the importance of this warning.

"Anyone who has any questions should talk to a pharmacist."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Karen Allen
"The benefits outweigh the risks"
Mother of Reye's victim Audrey Harrington
"She died in Great Ormond Street Hospital four days after she was admitted"
CSM's Professor Alasdair Breckenbridge
"This has been a very difficult argument"
See also:

26 Jun 02 | Health
26 Jun 02 | Health
30 Jun 00 | Health
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