HEALTH

Report studies emergency-room visits, deaths among children

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK The majority of emergency-room visits of pediatrics that were caused by cough/cold medicines were the result of overdosing and occurred primarily in children younger than two years of age, according to a report published in the April 2009 Annals of Emergency Medicine.

“In our sample, pediatric fatalities caused by nonprescription cough and cold medications were uncommon, involved overdose and primarily affected children younger than 2 years,” wrote Richard Dart, author of the report. “The intent of caregivers appears to be therapeutic to relieve symptoms in some cases and nontherapeutic to induce sedation or to facilitate child maltreatment in other cases.”

Researchers investigated 189 emergency-room visits. Of these, 118 were judged possibly, likely or definitely related to a cough and cold ingredient.

Of the 118 cases, 103 involved a nonprescription drug, whereas 15 cases involved a prescription medication alone. Out of the 103 cases associated with nonprescription drugs, the evidence indicated that 88 involved an overdosage. A dosage could not be assessed in the remaining 15 cases.

Several contributing factors were identified, the authors noted. Many of the patients were less than 2-years-old; some of the parents were using the medicines to sedate their child; in some cases, the medicines were administered in a daycare setting; in other cases, there was use of two separate ingredients with the same ingredient; in some instances, parents failed to use a measuring device; and some parents administered a nonprescription product intended for adult use.

“The age group of children younger than 2 years was the most commonly involved,” Dart wrote. “Their small size may facilitate inadvertent administration of an overdose. It is also harder for young children than for older children to communicate emerging adverse effects to their caregiver,” he said. “A potential contributor to the predominance of young children is the fact that the package label of nonprescription cough and cold medications does not provide dosing information for children younger than 2 years.” And hasn’t, incidentally, since late 2007 — the Consumer Healthcare Products Association and its member companies voluntarily withdrew all pediatric medicines labeled “consult your physician” for children under two in favor of “do not use” in children under two.

All cases that occurred in a daycare setting involved a child younger than 2 years, researchers noted.

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Pain-reliever removed from AAFES retailers

BY Michael Johnsen

DALLAS Army & Air Force Exchange Service retailers are removing aspirin from their shelves per a Department of Defense mandate.

AAFES is removing the analgesic from its pain-reliever lineup in an effort to reduce blood loss in the event of an injury for those soldiers operating in combat zones.

According to the memorandum from the Assistant Secretary of Defense, aspirin in combat zones is to be controlled. Furthermore, the memo states that “there should be no over-the-counter access through AAFES outlets or other Morale, Welfare and Recreation activities.”

All personnel, military and civilian, deploying to a combat zone are advised to stop taking aspirin at least 10 days prior to departure, unless advised by their healthcare provider to continue use, AAFES stated.

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Swine flu may increase demands for POC flu tests

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK The current situation with a possible swine flu pandemic may increase demand for rapid point-of-care flu tests, tests that would ascertain whether or not a person was ill with a traditional flu as opposed to the swine flu, market research publisher Kalorama asserted Monday.

“Although there is no marketed POC test specifically for the A/H1N1 [swine] strain at this point, it is likely common flu tests on the market will see increased usage,” stated Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information. “Physicians will feel an urgency to determine if a patient simply has the more common flu, and given the circumstances, they may not want to wait for central lab testing. POC tests are also more effective when patients see the doctor earlier, as they are likely to do when they hear of the epidemic, or crisis.”

The influenza rapid testing market has morphed from an experimental area with a few products, into a considerable component of the entire point-of-care infectious disease market, which Kalorama Information values at over $500 million annually in its new report “World Markets for Point of Care Diagnostics.”

Quidel leads the market for influenza testing with its Rapid Vue product, a rapid chromatographic immunoassay which provides results in 10 minutes from a sample collected via a nose or throat swab. Competitors in influenza testing include Becton Dickinson’s Directigen EZ Flu A+B test, Inverness Medical’s Biax Now and Meridan Biosciences TRU FLU.

In a conference call held Tuesday, Becton Dickinson noted that there has not yet been any increase in demand for its influenza diagnostics.

“The type of products that you can expect to be potentially in higher demand [during a pandemic event], although we’re not necessarily seeing much of it yet, would be rapid flu tests where there’s already an increased demand as you might expect from Mexico,” stated Gary Cohen, BD EVP. “That’s not a large business for us but the demand is already going up. And also immunization devices that would accompany either injectable antivirals or immunizations for the flu strain as injectables are developed, as flu vaccine is developed around these strains.”

Prior to this weekend, point-of-care influenza diagnostics had not been doing well, Kalorama acknowledged.

“All of these companies reported first quarter test sales were down as the result of a weak flu season this winter. It’s probable that this outbreak will boost revenues for these companies, and the stock market has already reacted to this possibility,” the company stated.

Carlson added, “In a crisis atmosphere like this, the benefit of ‘knowing now’ that point-of-care provides is made clear. This could be an important showcase of the need for faster testing, and that is critical for the long-term success of POC testing products in all of infectious disease.”

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