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Dangerous Doses For Children?

Pill bottle next to girl
CBS/AP/PHOTODISC
Sometimes parents may mean well when they give their sick child medicine that was originally prescribed for an adult. But it is a practice that may be faulty, according to some experts.

The effect of adult prescriptions given to children has not been tested, and some worry that the large dose of medicine puts the small bodies in harm's way.

Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and medical and parenting consultant who writes under the byline "Dr. Bill" for Baby Talk and Parenting magazine, explained on The Early Show that the latest government action comes at the urging of pediatricians.

This week, the federal government announced plans to test 12 of the most commonly used drugs for their effect on children. The medications are used to treat depression, high blood pressure and anxiety.

Sears said the safety of these drugs already have been proven in adults, which is why pediatricians have urged the FDA to test the medication on children.

Once the federal government establishes a policy on whether these drugs are effective for children, drug companies can start to invest on research to determine a safe child dosage.

Sears said adult medication may have different effects on the young. He said the adult and children's biochemical pathway may be the same, but the side effects may be different.

A child is not a little adult, but a growing person whose body works differently than an older person's. It can also be very difficult to test drugs in children because they are not as cooperative. For instance, they are very resistant to having their blood taken, he added.

The main reason the adult medications have yet to be tested on children is not because it is unsafe - there are more precautions taken to keep the tested children unharmed - but because it is expensive, Sears said.

Meanwhile, if a child is prescribed one of these adult drugs, Sears warned, his parents must be keen observers so they can tell the doctor exactly how the child is reacting.