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Severe and fatal pharmaceutical poisoning in young children in the UK
  1. Mark Anderson1,2,
  2. Leonard Hawkins2,
  3. Michael Eddleston3,4,
  4. John P Thompson5,
  5. J Allister Vale6,
  6. Simon H L Thomas2,7
  1. 1Great North Children's Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  2. 2Newcastle Unit, National Poisons Information Service, Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  3. 3Edinburgh Unit, National Poisons Information Service, Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  4. 4Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics, University/BHF Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  5. 5Cardiff Unit, National Poisons Information Service, University Hospital Llandough, Penarth, Vale of Glamorgan, UK
  6. 6Birmingham Unit, National Poisons Information Service, City Hospital, Birmingham, UK
  7. 7Institute of Cellular Medicine, Medical Toxicology Centre, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mark Anderson, Great North Children's Hospital, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK; mark.anderson7{at}nuth.nhs.uk

Abstract

Objective Accidental poisoning in young children is common, but severe or fatal events are rare. This study was performed to identify the number of such events occurring in the UK and the medications that were most commonly responsible.

Design Analysis of national data sets containing information relating to severe and fatal poisoning in children in the UK.

Data sources Office of National Statistics mortality data for fatal poisoning; Paediatric Intensive Care Audit Network admissions database and the National Poisons Information Service for severe non-fatal poisoning; Hospital Episode Statistics for admission data for implicated agents.

Results Between 2001 and 2013, there were 28 children aged 4 years and under with a death registered as due to accidental poisoning by a pharmaceutical product in England and Wales. Methadone was the responsible drug in 16 (57%) cases. In the UK, 201 children aged 4 years and under were admitted to paediatric intensive care with pharmaceutical poisoning between 2002 and 2012. The agent(s) responsible was identified in 115 cases, most commonly benzodiazepines (22/115, 19%) and methadone (20/115, 17%).

Conclusions Methadone is the most common pharmaceutical causing fatal poisoning and a common cause of intensive care unit admissions in young children in the UK.

  • Pharmacology
  • Toxicology

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