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Surveillance for fatal suspected adverse drug reactions in the UK
  1. A Clarkson,
  2. I Choonara
  1. Academic Division of Child Health, University of Nottingham, Derbyshire Children’s Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby DE22 3NE, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Professor I Choonara, Academic Division of Child Health (University of Nottingham), Derbyshire Children’s Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby DE22 3NE, UK;


Aim: To determine the nature and number of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) associated with fatal outcomes in children reported through the yellow card scheme.

Methods: All reports of suspected ADRs with a fatal outcome in children received by the UK Committee on Safety of Medicines through its Yellow Card Scheme from 1964 until December 2000 were reviewed. Reports associated with vaccines and overdose were excluded. The medicine, date of the report, diagnosis, ADR, and the age of the child were analysed. No formal causality assessment was performed.

Results: There were 331 deaths with 390 suspected medicines reported for children aged 16 years or less. Medicines most frequently mentioned were anticonvulsants (65 deaths), cytotoxics (34 deaths), anaesthetic agents (30 deaths), and antibiotics (29 deaths). The individual drug most frequently mentioned was sodium valproate (31 deaths). The nature of the reported ADRs were diverse, with hepatic failure the most frequent. In the past decade, there has been an increase in both the total number of suspected ADRs reported in children and the number of reports with a fatal outcome.

Conclusions: A wide range of suspected ADRs are associated with fatalities in children. Anticonvulsants were associated with the greatest number of reports of fatalities and hepatotoxicity in particular.

  • adverse drug reaction
  • fatality
  • surveillance
  • ADR, adverse drug reaction
  • ADROIT, Adverse Drug Reactions On-line Information Tracking
  • MCA, Medicines Control Agency
  • NSAID, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
  • YCS, Yellow Card Scheme

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