Children with congenital heart failure may be at risk because of discrepancies in doses of a heart drug, UK researchers have warned.
Consequently some children were perhaps not getting effective medication. That in turn could mean the children's health is in danger.
The findings over the prescription of Captopril were based on a survey of pharmacies linked to children's specialist heart centers and large referring hospitals. Captopril relaxes the blood vessels, relieving pressure on the heart.
Around 1,000 children are prescribed the drug. But it is licensed only for use in adults and is manufactured as a tablet, which many children are either unable or unwilling to swallow.
The drug must therefore either be crushed and water added, or obtained from a "specials" manufacturer in liquid form.
The survey conducted by the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, found only four pharmacies dispensed captopril tablets for crushing and dissolving in water. The other 22 used nine different liquid formulations of the drug, which came from a variety of sources.
Only three specialist centers used the same liquid formulations as their referring hospitals; 10 others used completely different formulations.
The stated shelf life of the formulations varied from a couple of weeks to several months.
But with one exception, the time limit was not confirmed by hard data.
Lead researcher Dr Hitesh Pandya said that further research was needed to establish an optimum formulation of liquid Captopril for use in children.
But in the short term, pharmacists working in hospitals and the community should ensure that children were given the same formulation of Captopril wherever it was dispensed, Pandya added.