Hospitalized Children Exposed to Considerable Polypharmacy

Pediatric patients with rare conditions have significantly greater likelihood of polypharmacy

TUESDAY, Sept. 6 (HealthDay News) -- A considerable proportion of hospitalized children are exposed to polypharmacy, with exposure to more drugs significantly more likely among those with rare conditions, according to a study published online Sept. 5 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

Chris Feudtner, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues examined the prevalence and patterns of exposure to drugs and therapeutic agents among 587,427 children younger than 18 years of age, hospitalized in 411 general hospitals and 52 children's hospitals throughout the United States in 2006. Daily and cumulative exposure to drugs and therapeutic agents were the outcomes measured.

The investigators found that the most common exposures differed by patient age and hospital type. On the first day of hospitalization in children's hospitals, patients younger than 1 year at the 90th percentile of daily exposure to distinct medications and those 1 year or older received 11 and 13 drugs, respectively; and those in general hospitals received eight and 12 drugs, respectively. By day seven of hospitalization in the children's hospitals, patients younger than 1 year at the 90th percentile of cumulative exposure to distinct medications had received 29 drugs, compared to 35 for patients 1 year or older; those in general hospitals received 22 and 28 drugs, respectively. Higher exposure to drugs was more likely among patients with less common conditions.

"A large fraction of hospitalized pediatric patients are exposed to substantial polypharmacy, especially patients with rare conditions," the authors write.

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