Protecting Our Children From Harm

As a pediatrician I am committed to, not only protecting but also helping our children, lead a happy and fulfilling life. As a medical professional it has always and will always be my primary concern: First do no harm. When we look at the medical environment for our children, we see that many drugs are being prescribed that have not been adequately (or not tested at all in children) evaluated for the safe use in children. Many drugs being prescribed today are for reasons that are called “off label.” That means the drugs have not been tested for efficacy or safety for our children.

And to add to this “off label” prescribing, many children are prescribed more than one drug that has not been tested in combination with other “off label” drugs. This is very disturbing to me as a physician, and I hope it would be “mind-boggling” for parents. I have seen children who were on 5 or more powerful psychotropic drugs for their behavior or learning problems. This is insanity! Why hasn’t the medical profession as a whole taken a close and careful look at what the potential causes might be instead of reaching for the “easy” solution…the prescription pad? Is it parental pressure to “do something”, or is it for financial gain? Difficult questions we all must contemplate.

Isn’t it time to start asking questions of our health care providers? The number of “over the counter” drugs that are available for what we consider to be minor ailments, fever and colds, have recently been taken off the market. Does this cause alarm in more people than just me? Tylenol? Every parent’s quick response to a child who is just out of sorts, crying more than usual or just not as responsive as they usually are has been in the past to reach for the Tylenol bottle. I often asked: Did the child have fever? Why did you give Tylenol? I am sure that most people realize by now that Tylenol (acetaminophen is toxic to the liver.) is not a solution for everything that might ail a child. Tylenol is not the answer to everything that impacts a child’s health. The same is true for ibuprofen and a host of cold remedies. Thank you FDA for a wise decision.

As a society, we all want what is best and safe for our children. We cringe at the idea of bullying and the horrors of internet predators, but how often do we get guarded or outraged about the drugs that we are putting into the fragile ecosystem of our child’s physiology?

Okay most of us may know all this, but what are we, as a society, as parents and health care providers to do? First, physicians must stop prescribing a drug for every little ailment. And parents must stop insisting that every cold is a bacterial infection requiring potent antibiotics. Physicians must also decrease the number of “off-label” drugs they are prescribing for our infants and children. Doctors must take the role of compassionate and wise leaders in the health of the children in their care. They must warn parents that many drugs have not been adequately tested for their safe use in our children. As doctors, we must educate, educate, educate. That means that doctors have take the time to do this.

As dedicated physicians we also need to learn about other safer treatments…what some call “alternative” therapies. These natural therapies, especially homeopathy, have a much safer tract record than pharmaceutical agents. This is evidence-based medicine at its highest. There is growing evidence that therapies such as homeopathy can have a healing effect for common illnesses such as ear infections, gastrointestinal viruses, and respiratory illnesses. Homeopathy is such a powerful healing modality that can assist our young ones in restoring physiological balance by assisting the immune system to eliminate common infections.

Integrative medicine is the use of both traditional and holistic therapies to stimulate a healing response. In the midst of our health-care crisis, there has never been a more important need to understand that we need to re-think what health care really means. Parents need to start asking questions, and doctors must rise to the occasion and start investigating and exploring safer therapies for their young charges. We are all ready and open to something dramatic and radically different to be the main emphasis of our health-care system. Our precious children are more important than the bottom line of the richest industry in the history of the world…the Pharmaceutical industry! Our children are our future. Let’s protect them.

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