To define and evaluate the attention devoted to drug use in children rather than just review existing reviews, the present attempt is to seek out the primary sources of information in the hope that this effort would not only yield more reliable data, but would also provide an opportunity for reconsidering methodological problems which are possibly even more important. An English-language literature search for drug use in children from 1988 was conducted on two databases and a manual search was made of the literature, with a check of references quoted in main original articles, reviews and textbooks. The review was then organized in two main sections: an overall evaluation of the recent literature concerning drug use in children; the epidemiological profile of drug exposure as described cumulatively by the drug-utilization studies. A substantial lack of systematic attention to this area of drug epidemiology was found: drug use in the children is a 'hidden' reality in the literature; the wealth of methodologic developments that have taken place in the general field of drug use monitoring has scantly reached children. Children can be considered still "methodologic orphans" with respect to the transferable knowledge on the benefit/risk profile of therapies they receive. A network has to be developed to monitor clinical problems, including drug use, as part of an "audit" of the overall management of children.