FDA considers banning children’s cold medicine

Published 11:50 pm Thursday, October 2, 2008

As temperatures begin to cool down for fall, more and more people catch the common cold and recent policy revisions by the Food and Drug Administration have reduced the amount of over the counter treatments available to reduce cold symptoms in youngsters.

According to the Associated Press, FDA officials, at a public hearing Thursday, said they need to gather more data on whether over-the-counter (OTC) remedies are safe and effective for children ages 2-6.

The FDA is also worried that a ban — as sought by leading pediatricians’ groups — might only drive parents to give adult medicines to their youngsters.

Tom Fry, pharmacist for Florala Pharmacy, said he felt that no children under the age of 2 should be given OTC medication with first consulting a pediatrician, but some other methods can be used by any person to increase their body’s ability to avoid colds.

“For the real youngsters, under 2, we would refer them to a pediatrician,” he said. “I always recommend a multivitamin with Vitamin C to boost the body’s immune system. A well balanced diet, which includes protein with every meal, could also help to boost a child’s immune system and prevent the contraction of colds or illness. Physical activity helps to stimulate the immune system as well.”

Common colds with no high fever can still be treated effectively using OTC cold medicines, according to Fry.

“The over the counter remedies still work well,” he said. “I always recommend an herbal product that has Echinacea in it. It is effective for treating the cold, reducing the length of the cold and addressing the symptoms associated with the common cold.”

Laura Darby, pharmacist and co-owner of Darby’s Village Pharmacy in Andalusia, said that good personal hygiene, especially in young children, can greatly reduce the contraction and spreading of the common cold and other illnesses.

“The best advice is to teach good hand washing techniques,” she said. “Children should always wash their hands before they eat. If parents continue to suggest and encourage this practice, then it will work well to reduce the occurrence of illness.”

This year, the FDA warned against giving OTC cold medicines to children younger than 2. At that time, officials said they expected to decide by spring on recommendations for youngsters up to 11. Now the agency is seeking more advice from doctors, industry and consumers — and officials are not giving a timetable for a decision.

U.S. families spend at least $286 million a year on such cough and cold remedies for children, according to the Nielsen Co. market research firm. In any given week the medicines are used by an estimated 10 percent of all children, with the biggest exposure among 2- to 5-year-olds, a recent Boston University report found.