Objective To elucidate the current situation of randomised drug trials involving the paediatric population.
Methods Systematic review of paediatric randomised controlled trials of medicinal products published in 2007. Three major databases were searched with validated search strategies; Medline, Embase and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Clinical Trials. Data was collected on the location, participants, class of drug and methodological quality of the trials.
Results Six hundred and four trials were found involving more than 100 000 paediatric participants. Only about a quarter (146, 24%) were conducted in low and lower-middle income countries. Few studies (42, 7%) were performed in neonates. Many trials recruiting both adult and paediatric patients inadequately describe the characteristics of the paediatric participants. The most studied areas were nervous system (155, 26%), anti-infective (101, 17%) respiratory (74, 12%) or antiparasitic (45, 8%) drugs. A high proportion of the studies (36%) used an inactive placebo as the comparator. Paediatric randomised drug trials performed in low and low-middle income countries were of lower methodological quality (mean Jadad score 2.90 vs 3.27, p<0.01), studied more antiparasitic and anti-infectives (47% vs 16%, p<0.01) but fewer reported that ethical approval was obtained (83% vs 93%, p<0.01), compared to those conducted in high or upper-middle income countries.
Conclusions There are a significant number of randomised controlled drug trials involving children taking place throughout the world. To develop the evidence base for safe and effective medicines for the benefit of the whole paediatric population, high quality and ethical clinical trials should involve a wide range of children.
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