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Get a Second Opinion When Your Child is Prescribed Codeine

Despite the known danger of codeine, a recent study shows American doctors continue to prescribe the narcotic to children — a lot.

Research published in the journal Pediatrics raises the alarm about the negligence of emergency room physicians and doctors who prescribe codeine for children for pain or coughing.

Codeine has never been proven effective for use as a cough suppressant. As a pain reliever, it is known to be dangerous to children and there are safer alternatives such as ibuprofen.

The dangers of codeine

The primary danger of codeine to children is the rate by which it is metabolized. Children of the same gender, age and weight can process the drug differently, making it difficult to ensure they receive the proper dosage. Some children metabolize codeine into a morphine-like substance rapidly, leading to suppression of respiration and death. In 1997 and 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned practitioners against its use.

Despite these facts, emergency room data for years 2001 through 2010 revealed the following:

  • Emergency room physicians issued between 500,000 and 800,000 prescriptions for codeine-containing products during each year of the study.
  • Despite the AAP warnings, prescription of the drug dropped minimally, from 3.7 to 2.9 percent.

Dr. Alan Woolf, a pediatrician who authored a comment on the journal article noted, “Codeine has never been shown by any well-controlled scientific study to have an effect on the severity or duration of children’s coughs or colds. It’s never been shown to be effective, and it’s never been shown to be safe.”

Approximately one in 12 children could metabolize codeine fast enough to kill them. If your child is prescribed codeine, get a second opinion. And if your child is injured in New York by a medical mistake, speak with an experienced Long Island injury attorney.

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