Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Reflux meds for infants skyrocket

Courtesy of Reuters Health

According to a study in this week's Pediatrics, the FDA looked at an acid reflux drug called lansoprazole (sold as Prevacid) due to concerns about efficacy and safety in infants.

The medication is not indicated for children younger than one, and studies show it has no effect in that age group. Yet doctors wrote 358,000 prescriptions for the drug to babies under one in 2010.

Dr. Eric Hassall, a pediatric gastroenterologist at the California Pacific Medical Center, said the number reflects rampant overuse of acid drugs in infants.

"These drugs work very well when they are prescribed for the right indication," he told Reuters Health. "But in infants they are very seldom indicated."

He added that stomach acid is the first defense against many infections and blocking it even for part of the day will raise children's risk of pneumonia and stomach infections.

"My concern is that we are unnecessarily exposing infants to infectious and nutritional complications," Hassall said. "Doctors are too quick to prescribe and parents are very quick to demand, and this is of course driven by consumer advertising."

"I would advise parents that if their child is growing and developing normally despite spitting up, they should resist the urge to give the child a medical diagnosis and administer prescription medications," he added. "If their child is excessively irritable or otherwise unwell, they should seek medical consultation."

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