Around 45, 000 medicines are available in the German market, but only 20 per cent of them are checked for their suitability for children. The small patients are much more likely to be ill than adults: they catch colds seven to ten times a year, cough, runny nose, fever, gastrointestinal infections are the most common diseases.
Problems with the dosage
Problems often cause the correct dosage of the drug. Because the immune system of children is in a development process, it is constantly "learning". A major problem for doctors is the correct dosage of drugs that can produce good effects in adults, but can lead to significant risks and side effects in children when over or under dosing.
No rule of thumb for medication
Dr. Ute Galle-Hoffmann, a pharmacist at the AOK Federal Association, warns but above all parents who set the dosage without consultation with the doctor or pharmacist: "The body reacts differently in each stage of development.The immune system and metabolism work in children very different than at adults. "
For example, premature babies and newborns whose liver and kidneys are not yet mature are less likely to excrete some drugs, whereas infants and children up to the age of eight have a fast metabolism and therefore excrete the substances faster than adults - often they need a higher dose per kilo of body weight. A rule of thumb about the motto "take the half" would be fundamentally wrong. Even with herbal remedies, caution is required, as many juices or drops often contain a high alcohol content of up to 45 percent with fatal consequences for children. In case of doubt, parents always need the advice of the doctor or pharmacist.
The dilemma: formal approval for many drugs is missing
Many cold remedies such as nose drops or fever suppositories are sufficiently tested for their suitability for children. But in about 80 percent of the drugs available in Germany there are no studies on the mode of action and dosage for children. In the package leaflet, it then says, mutatis mutandis, that for children under 14 years, no knowledge about effects and side effects are available. Doctors can actually treat only on their own responsibility or thanks to good experience with drugs, some clinics such as the University of Hamburg research on their own initiative. But they can not tolerate the drugs. This dilemma is especially acute for children suffering from serious diseases.
Professor Hansjörg Seyberth from the German Society for Pediatric Healing and Youth Medicine puts it in a nutshell: "Drug safety in the treatment of children leaves much to be desired throughout Europe." He describes the drug therapy of doctors as a "legal and medical balancing act". More than two years ago, a study was published in the British Medical Journal, which was conducted in five European pediatric hospitals. The conclusion: Two-thirds of in-hospital-treated children were given medications that were not approved in the respective country or were not approved for children for the specific illness.
Hurdles in research
Pharmaceutical companies are aware of the situation, but they face the problem: medicines for children have to be tested at various age groups before being introduced to the market, which is ethically controversial; In addition, there are only a few parents who want to give their children as test subjects. Added to this is the economic efficiency, because the fixed amount for low-dose pediatric medicine is often so low that the expensive research is not covered by the yields.
State incentives such as those in the USA are missing in Germany. A European directive to be implemented this year in the Federal Republic of Germany is an important step in the right direction, as it encourages pharmaceutical companies to test medicines for children and to help doctors out of the gray area.
And what is left for the parents? You should under no circumstances experiment with effective drugs for them, professional advice must be sought. Home remedies help with many more harmless illnesses such as colds. Special care should be taken in infants. Here medical advice is essential.