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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 May, 2005, 13:01 GMT 14:01 UK
Child drug research plea renewed
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Medicines are rarely tested on children
Experts have repeated calls for more research into drugs that are given to children.

Around 40% of medicines prescribed to children have never actually been tested on children. For newborn babies, the figure rises up to 90%.

Doctors, patient groups and the drug industry said more needs to be done to encourage paediatric drug trials.

Legislation is underway, but the public is largely unaware of the issue, a meeting in London heard.

Without appropriate high quality medical research, it is clear that children will continue to suffer
Alistair Kent, Director of the Genetics Interest Group

The European Regulation will encourage more drug companies to make medicines specifically for children. However, it is not expected to be adopted until the end of 2006.

Alistair Kent, Director of the Genetics Interest Group, an alliance of patient and family support groups, said: "Many are unaware of the proposals to regulate in this area."

He said it was important for parents to be aware of the changes and became involved in the process.

He also urged parents to involve their children in drug research.

"No parent wants to see their child treated as a guinea pig.

"But without appropriate high quality medical research, it is clear that children will continue to suffer."

Child research

Most drug research is carried out on adults because it is ethically simpler to obtain consent from them.

But campaigners have been warning that children are not merely small adults and that therapeutic and side effects can vary widely with age.

There is also a problem with dosing and formulation that drugs come in. Doctors are often forced to split and crush tablets and make a best guess at what the dose will be.

Dr Bruce Morland, consultant paediatric oncologist at Birmingham's Children's Hospital, said: "There are some 75 million children in Europe so this is not a small population we are talking about."

He welcomed the proposed regulations but warned that it should not become bureaucratic and that there must be enough incentive for researchers to carry out the work.

Francis Crawley of the European Forum for Good Clinical Practice, echoed these concerns.

He said that too much red tape would drive research away from Europe and into America, which he said had happened since the European Clinical Trials Directive - laws on how research is conducted - was adopted in 2004.

The Department of Health has committed funding to promote research into drugs for children through new networks co-ordinated by the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health is also helping to produce an encyclopaedia of medicines for children, expected next year, similar to the adult version called the British National Formulary.




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