Despite years of preventive steps and educational campaigns, pharmaceutical poisoning remains a common childhood injury. A new study recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics attempts to understand the growing problem of childhood injuries due to pharmaceutical poisoning. Hopefully, the results will help reduce the number of future injuries.
Dr. Randall Bond and colleagues from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati gathered information on over half a million children up to the age of five who had visited the emergency department (ED) because they may have been poisoned by medication.
The authors found that 95% of these ED visits resulted from children getting their hands on medications and eating them. Prescription drugs accounted for 55% of the ED visits, 76% of hospital admissions, and 71% of significant injuries. The biggest impact came from opioid-containing pain medications (eg, oxycodone, morphine, codeine), sedative hypnotics (eg, muscle relaxants, sleep aids), and cardiovascular medications. “The problem of pediatric poisoning in the U.S. is getting worse, not better,” Dr. Bond asserts.
The problem seems to stem from a greater availability of and access to medications in the child’s home. This study shows how vitally important it is for parents and caregivers to store medicines in locked cabinets or up and out of reach from children. We need to pay attention!
While taking greater precautions at home are essential, the authors believe that the “largest potential benefit would come from packaging design changes that reduce the quantity a child could quickly and easily access in a self-ingestion episode, like flow restrictors on liquids and one-at-a-time tablet dispensing containers.” These should apply to meds for both adults and children, prescription and over-the-counter.
This looks like a great opportunity for product engineers.