Codeine prescribed to 500,000 children yearly, despite known dangers

By Amanda Stewart,

A new study has found that even though codeine syrup has been proven to be dangerous for children, hundreds of thousands of kids are still being prescribed the drug in emergency rooms each year.

The hospital survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that ER doctors prescribed 560,000 to 880,000 prescriptions for codeine to children each year between 2001 and 2010, according to HealthDay.

These numbers continued even after the American Academy of Pediatrics warned repeatedly that prescribing codeine would change a child’s metabolism and turn toxic for kids. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

According to CBS News in 2010, the percentage of children who received the drug was only three percent. However, with 25 million children visiting the ER each year, the number of kids who are still receiving the drug as treatment is extremely high.

Dr. Dyan Hes, a pediatric doctor, said that she could not believe the study’s outcome. "I've never seen a doctor write codeine as a cough suppressant or as a painkiller in an emergency room," she said. "I worked in the Bronx. I worked in many hospitals, I've never seen it happen."

Staffing of the ER could be to blame. As many emergency rooms are low on staff, adult doctors will often treat the pediatric side of the ER. Many doctors treating adults are used to writing that prescription.

Parents may also be to blame. Some parents after spending hours upon hours in the ER will demand a prescription.

For a child, codeine is a dangerous drug and is often not effective in treating a child’s cold.



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