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WHO wants safer medicines for children
  1. Imti Choonara
  1. Imti Choonara, Academic Division of Child Health, University of Nottingham, The Medical School, Derbyshire Children’s Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby DE22 3DT, UK; imti.choonara{at}

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The right of children to receive medicines that are safe and effective is increasingly being recognised. Within Europe, legislation has recently been passed that will encourage the pharmaceutical industry to study medicines scientifically in children.1 2 In North America there have been initiatives in relation to legislation and the establishment of the Paediatric Pharmacology Research Unit Network (PPRU). Despite concerns that the legislation has resulted in the pharmaceutical industry studying those medicines which will provide the greatest profit rather than those which will benefit children,3 one hopes that drug therapy in children will improve as a result. It is important to recognise, however, that the majority of children in the world live neither in Europe nor in North America. The interest shown by the World Health Organization (WHO) in ensuring that children receive medicines that are both safe and effective is welcome. The publication of Promoting safety of medicines for children by the WHO recognises that children have experienced harm from medicines for a variety of reasons.4


Medicines that are administered to adults and children contain both the active drug and a variety of excipients that ensure that the active drug is soluble, stable and palatable. Children have experienced significant harm from the use of inappropriate excipients.5 For instance, diethylene glycol was used as a solvent to prepare a sulphanilamide solution in …

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  • Competing interests: None.