Difficulties in measuring children's medicine

November 30, 2010 3:01:35 PM PST
More than half of U.S. kids take one or more medications per week, and more than half of them are over the counter.

Now, there's a report of confusion between over the counter instructions, and the use of devices to dispense them.

The FDA has asked makers of over the counter children's drug liquids to voluntarily make label instructions in the same measurement units found on the dispenser cups packed with the bottles.

But a special report released by the Journal of the American Medical Association says, voluntary compliance isn't working.

When your child is sick and needs medication, you can find them lined up on drugstore shelves. Most have little cups inside and shown on the boxes. But 25 percent of liquid drugs had no such devices, says the report. And there was a bigger problem.

"Almost all products with a device had makings that did not match with instructions that were on the medication label," said Dr. H. Shonna Yin, with NYU School of Medicine.

The label and device study is authored in part by Dr. Yin She and her colleagues

They reviewed those 148 products which had measuring devices. 99 percent had one or more inconsistencies between label instructions and device markings.

An example showed one packages directions in blue to give "2 teaspoons" of the liquid. But if you take a closer look at the cups, the first is marked in ounces and drams, and the second in cc's and milliliters, ml's, the third in tablespoons.

Not one shows teaspoons.

Even the abbreviations, tsp and tbsp are confusing.

Not all teaspoons are the same size. And on one label, it said one and a half teaspoons. How does one mom know how much that is?

One mom Eyewitness News spoke to says she has no problems reading markings such as ml's, but of course she has a PhD from Harvard.

But for those of us who don't have a PhD, a little advice.

"If they're confused about whether they do match its important for them to ask someone for help," adds Dr. Yin.

Someone such as your doctor or the pharmacist Dr. Yin would like to see a standard device used for the industry, and consistency between labels and device markings for each product.

She would also like the FDA to mandate these changes rather than the current voluntary recommendations.