Objective: To understand which medications, under which circumstances, are responsible for the noted increase in pediatric medication poisonings, resource use, and morbidity.
Study design: Patient records from 2001-2008 were obtained from the National Poison Data System of the American Association of Poison Control Centers for children aged ≤5 years evaluated in a health care facility following exposure to a potentially toxic dose of a pharmaceutical agent. Pharmaceutical agents were classified as over-the-counter or prescription and by functional category. Exposures were classified as child self-ingested the medication or as therapeutic error. For the 8-year period, emergency visits, admissions, significant injuries, and trends in these events were calculated for each substance category.
Results: We evaluated 453 559 children for ingestion of a single pharmaceutical product. Child self-exposure was responsible for 95% of visits. Child self-exposure to prescription products dominated the health care impact with 248 023 of the visits (55%), 41 847 admissions (76%), and 18 191 significant injuries (71%). The greatest resource use and morbidity followed self-ingestion of prescription products, particularly opioids, sedative-hypnotics, and cardiovascular agents.
Conclusions: Prevention efforts have proved to be inadequate in the face of rising availability of prescription medications, particularly more dangerous medications.
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