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Data from primary care databases in the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy (BMJ 2008;337:1338–41) have provided information about drug use among almost 700000 children born in 2000–2005 and followed-up for an average of 3.5 years. The drugs or preparations used most often were anti-infectives, respiratory drugs, and skin preparations. The prevalence in a given year for each of these categories was 48%, 30% and 30% among children under the age of 2 years, 30%, 21%, and 17% at ages 2–11 years, and >10% at ages 12–18 years. Among respiratory drugs, the most frequently used were asthma remedies, ‘other respiratory drugs’, and nasal preparations; among skin preparations the most popular were topical steroids, emollients, and barrier creams. ‘Off-label’ usage (use below the approved age range in the country concerned) included use of topical triazoles/imidazoles on the skin and ranitidine or lauril sulphate for gastrointestinal conditions in children <2 years old. Also among children <2 years, cefalexin was used off-label in the UK and beclometasone, xylometazoline, and cetirizine in both the UK and the Netherlands. Oral contraceptive drugs were commonly used off-label in the UK and the Netherlands. The most common drugs or preparations for recurrent or long-term use were emollients, topical steroids, sex hormones, anti-infectives, and bronchodilators. It is hoped that data such as these might stimulate more research into drug use and safety in children.

At long last there is reasonable hope of an effective vaccine against Plasmodium …

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