Efforts On Child-Appropriate Medicines Intensify
Efforts to ensure children have better access to medicines appropriate for them intensified today with the unveiling of a new research and development agenda by WHO. The agenda, presented at the London launch of a campaign named "Make medicines child size", targets a range of medicines -- including antibiotics, asthma and pain medication -- that need to be better tailored to children's needs. It calls for further research and development of combination pills for HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria, as well as appropriate child therapy for a number of neglected tropical diseases.
"The gap between the availability and the need for child-appropriate medicines touches wealthy as well as poor countries," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "As we strive for equitable access to scientific progress in health, children must be one of our top priorities."
WHO has already begun work to promote increased attention to research into children's medicines. The agency is building an Internet portal to clinical trials carried out in children and will publish the web site containing that information early next year.
First list of essential medicines for children
WHO is also releasing today the first international List of Essential Medicines for Children. The list contains 206 medicines that are deemed safe for children and address priority conditions. "But a lot remains to be done. There are priority medicines that have not been adapted for children's use or are not available when needed," said Dr Hans Hogerzeil, Director of Medicines Policy and Standards at WHO. In industrialized societies more than half of the children are prescribed medicines dosed for adults and not authorized for use in children. In developing countries, the problem is compounded by lower access to medicines.
Each year about 10 million children do not reach their fifth birthday. Approximately six million of these children die of treatable conditions and could be saved if the medicines they need were readily available, safe, effective and affordable.
Pneumonia alone causes approximately two million deaths in children under five each year and HIV kills 330 000 children under 15. "These illnesses can be treated but many children don't stand a chance because the medicines are either not appropriate for their age, don't reach them or are priced too high - up to three times the price of adult drugs," said Dr Howard Zucker, WHO Assistant Director-General.
WHO will also work with governments to promote changes in their legal and regulation requirements for children's medicines.