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Monday, April 21, 2014

Study: Doctors Ignore Warnings, Still Hand Out Too Much Codeine to Kids

Posted By on Mon, Apr 21, 2014 at 9:29 AM

Too many kids are taking too much codeine.

A 10-year-study, published in the journal Pediatrics, is warning that emergency room doctors continue to prescribe codeine to children more than 500,000 times per year, when better options are available.

"Codeine is a pro-drug, which means it's converted into morphine by your liver," Dr. Dyan Hes, a New York City pediatrician, told CBS News. "It doesn't have a good safety protocol profile so the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended for a long time—over 10 years—to not use codeine as a cough suppressant and it's also not effective."

In 2012, the World Health Organization removed codeine from its list of essential drugs. And the AAP has warned U.S. doctors twice—in guidelines issued in 1997 and 2007—to avoid prescribing codeine to children.

Researchers said today's study was the first of its kind to attempt an estimate on the number of children being prescribed codeine in U.S. emergency rooms and to see if those warnings made any difference.

The study authors estimated that each year up to 57,000 children who metabolize codeine quickly are at risk of overdose. Moreover, as many as 250,000 children who metabolize the drug poorly are at risk for low levels leading to inadequate pain relief.

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