Toys for Drugs?

In a July 11, 2000 Associated Press article printed on Intelihealth.com, comes a chilling article about new drug studies being started on children. The article shows both a disturbing ongoing problem, and a possibly more chilling attempt at a solution. The article starts off by saying, "It is the dirty little secret of pediatrics: Unknown to most parents, the majority of drugs prescribed for children have never been tested in youngsters to determine how well they work or even the best dose." What this means is that most all of the drugs used today on children were developed and tested on adults. This leaves pediatricians to guess on the use and amount of the medication for children. "It is important to remember that children are not just little adults. They often handle drugs differently," says pediatrician Dr. Ellen Chadwick.

The scary part is that now, large numbers of clinical trials are now starting, and being planned on children. Literally thousands of children will be used as guinea pigs for drug testing. To entice parents to submit their children for these tests some researchers are offering gift certificates to Toys R Us to reward the kids for being part of the testing. Even worse, about one-fourth pay families. Typical payments can range from $200 to $400, but parents have been offered as much as $1,000 to sign up their kids.

Even the drug manufacturers now get enticements from the U.S. government to test drugs on children. Two years ago the U.S. Congress granted manufacturers an extra six months of patent protection if they voluntarily test products used by pediatricians. This extra six months means millions of extra dollars in income for the drug companies. As a result, clinical trials of medications in children are suddenly booming, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects more than 18,000 youngsters to participate in the next few years.