Children in the United States often take multiple different medications that could have dangerous interactions, posing potentially serious health risks according to the findings of a new study.
In a report published this month in the medical journal Pediatrics, researchers indicate that one in 12 children are at risk of experiencing harmful interactions from mixing prescription medications.
According to researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, information on the use of prescription medications among children and adolescents in the United States is lacking, and estimates about the amount of the population concurrently using several prescription medications could be a contributor to adverse health consequences.
Researchers collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2014, in which more than 23,000 children and adolescents medication use patterns were retrospectively analyzed. The study aimed to identify how many children may be at risk for drug-drug interactions, which in known as a situation where two drugs taken simultaneously have an interactions that could counter the benefits of each other, or increase the risk of additional side effects.
The study found that nearly 20 percent of children had used one or more prescription medications, 14 percent used chronic medications, and seven percent were recorded using acute medications. The analysis showed medication use increased with age, from 14 percent in children younger than five years old to 22 percent in adolescents from age 13 to 19 years old.
Common medications found to be used by adolescents for longer durations were respiratory agents for asthma and stimulants or antidepressants, which have been known to increase the side effect risks of suicide, serotonin syndrome and even sudden death.
Researchers found approximately 7.5 percent of children used multiple medications simultaneously, and among them, one in 12 were found to be at a major risk for drug-drug-interaction. Adolescent girls were found to be among the highest risk group, with one in five found to be using interacting drug regimens.
Of those interacting drugs, the study’s findings indicate prescription medications were associated with an increased risk of suicide were among those most commonly used in combination. Psychotropic medications and oral contraceptives were found to be taken in unison the most among teens.
Although specific adverse health events were not recorded in the study, the results can be used to inform the medical field and promote awareness of the potential risks of combining prescription medications, specifically those including suicidal risks, says lead author Dima M. Qato and assistant professor of pharmacy systems, outcomes and policy at the UIC College of Pharmacy.