Viagra For Kids

baby viagra CBS/AP

Doctors are giving infants and babies the anti-impotence drug Viagra to save them from a life-threatening lung condition even though it has not been tested on children, a magazine said Tuesday.

The drug, produced by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, has already been used to treat a small number of children with pulmonary hypertension in India, the United States, Canada and Britain with promising results.

"Critics have expressed serious concern at the fact that no clinical trials have taken place for this use of the drug and at the wide variation in doses used," New Scientist magazine said in its online version.

Although the drug is approved for the treatment of impotence, doctors have found that it helps babies suffering from PHT, which affects 28,000 children and 250,000 adults in the United States alone.

The magazine said adults with PHT were already being enrolled in clinical trials of the drug. Studies on children could start in the next few months.

A spokesman for Pfizer said the company was considering using the drug to treat PHT, but could not comment on any clinical trails.

"We are seriously looking into the use of Viagra for PHT," he told Reuters.

Viagra was originally developed to treat angina by opening up blood vessels when doctors and patients discovered the impact it had on male sexual arousal.

PHT is a blood vessel disorder of the lung. In babies with the problem a bypass vessel used for fetal circulation fails to close after birth, depriving the child of oxygen.

Babies with PHT are usually put on a ventilator and given nitric oxide, but doctors who have used Viagra for PHT said it works better than nitric oxide and has fewer side-effects.

"At the moment it is given on a compassionate use basis agreed with the hospital's ethics board," said Ian Adatia, of Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children.

Adatia has given the drug to 10 children.

Dr. PK Rajiv, of the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences in Kochi, India, treated an 8-hour-old baby girl with the drug after other treatment failed.

"The child recovered in 48 hours and within a week two other newborns survived the same treatment," he told the magazine.

The use of Viagra in babies highlights the problem of giving drugs approved for adults to children. Very few drugs are tested on babies and children because it is not cost-effective for the pharmaceutical companies and parents are often reluctant to put their children in clinical trials for an untested treatment.

Children may also react to drugs differently from adults. Determining the correct dosage for a baby could also be difficult and infants could be more susceptible to toxic effects because of underdeveloped kidneys and livers.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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