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WHO, UNICEF Issue Guide, Call For More Research Into Medicines For Children

Along with the release of a WHO-UNICEF guide on medicines for children, the U.N. agencies on Friday said the guide “exposed dangerous shortfalls” in medicines designed for children and called for more research into treating children, Reuters reports. “While effective medicines exist to fight disease and treat life-threatening conditions like malnutrition, formulations suitable for children are often difficult to source,” Francisco Blanco, UNICEF’s chief of medicines and nutrition, said, according to the news service.

“Left without children’s formulations, healthcare workers and parents often resort to using fractions of adult dosage forms or prepare makeshift prescriptions of medicines by crushing tablets or dissolving portions of capsules in water,” Reuters continues, noting that such measurements risk compromising safety and effectiveness (Kelland, 4/30).

The new publication “offers current details on 612 different paediatric formulations of 240 medicines selected from the ‘WHO Model List of Essential Medicines for Children’, as well as therapeutic food, and vitamin and mineral supplements, to treat major childhood illnesses and diseases,” according to a WHO press release. “The information is vital for development and health partners who procure and supply essential medicines for children,” the release adds.

“[W]herever possible, medicines for children should be provided as flexible, solid, oral dosage forms that can be administered in a liquid when it is given to the sick child,” according to the WHO release. “Liquid formulations are more expensive to purchase compared with dispersible tablets and are also more costly to store, package, and transport safely” (4/29).

According to Reuters, the guide indicates that there are still few sources for “children’s treatments of diarrhea and HIV/AIDS, and [that it is] still difficult to get child-specific medicines to treat tropical infections that are endemic in Africa and Asia” (4/30).

“An estimated 9 million children die each year from preventable and treatable causes,” such as pneumonia, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS and malaria, said Hans Hogerzeil, director of essential medicines and pharmaceutical policies at the WHO, according to a UNICEF press release. “Improved availability and access to safe child-specific medicines is still far from reality for many children in poor countries. This one-of-its-kind publication will be useful for organizations and personnel involved in procurement to identify where medicines may be found and what they cost,” he added (4/29).

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