The World Health Organization on Thursday launched a campaign to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop medicines better adapted to treat children with diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, Reuters reports.
WHO has compiled the first international list of Essential Medicines for Children, which include 206 products that tackle priority conditions and are safe for children. The agency particularly is calling for increased research and development of pediatric HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria treatments.
According to WHO, about six million children younger than age five die annually because they do not receive appropriate medication for treatable diseases. Howard Zucker, WHO assistant director-general, said that more drugs need to be made "child size," meaning that they need to be in the "dosage forms" and "preparation" for easy administration to children. He added that children often either must take drugs that are not age-appropriate, or they lack access to medicines because of cost constraints.
In the case of HIV/AIDS, the few drugs that have been developed for children cost "two to eight times" more than adult medications, Hans Hogerzeil, WHO medicines policy and standards director, said. It is "much more expensive to treat a child than it is to treat an adult, because there has been a lot of competition among the adult medicines but hardly any competition for the children's medicines." He added that if there were more products on the market, price reductions might occur .
Testing medicines on children also is a challenge, because ethical practices require informed consent from people participating in clinical trials, which is difficult to obtain in the case of children, according to Reuters.
Europe and the U.S. now have special rules that offer extended patent protection for drugs that have been tested among children in an effort to address the problem, Reuters reports. WHO also is building a Web site, which is scheduled to launch in early 2008, that will provide information about clinical trials conducted among children.
Source: Kaiser Family Foundation