Palliative medicines for children - a new frontier in paediatric research

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2017 Apr;69(4):377-383. doi: 10.1111/jphp.12615. Epub 2016 Oct 13.


Objectives: This paper seeks to highlight from a UK perspective the current lack of a research evidence base in paediatric palliative care that has resulted in a paucity of available medicines with appropriate formulations (strength and dosage form) to provide symptom management for children with life-limiting illnesses and to raise awareness of this group of 'therapeutic orphans'. Currently, clinicians have limited, often unsuitable medication choices for their paediatric palliative care patients, with little hope of moving away from the status quo.

Key findings: Most medicines used in children receiving palliative care are old and off-patent drugs, developed for and tested in an adult population. Many are not available in suitable formulations (dosage form and strength) for administration to children, and there are often no age-related profiles of adverse drug reactions or for safe dosing.

Summary: Existing regional paediatric palliative care networks and support organisations should lobby funding bodies and the academic community to support appropriate research for this group of therapeutic orphans. Support must also be provided to pharmaceutical companies in the development of suitable products with appropriate formulations.

Keywords: end-of-life care; hospice care; medicines for children; paediatric medicines; paediatric palliative care; symptom management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Research / methods*
  • Biomedical Research / trends
  • Child
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Palliative Care / trends
  • Palliative Medicine / methods*
  • Palliative Medicine / trends
  • Pediatrics / methods*
  • Pediatrics / trends
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations