The drug Zofran, commonly given in children to limit vomiting can help in the recovery of children dehydrated by viral gastroenteritis . A latest study released on Wednesday further highlights that emergency room doctors are overusing the drug.
Childhood gastroenteritis accounts for over 1.5 million of the emergency room visits annually. Dehydrated children are being encouraged to drink an electrolyte solution for restoration of fluid electrolyte balance. However vomiting prevents most children from reaping any clinical benefit.
Administration of intravenous fluids is one alternative to enable recovery of children. Another alternative to stop the vomiting is to administer ondansetron, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline and marketed under the brand name, Zofran, reveals a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study was conducted on children who had to be hospitalized (Children's Memorial Hospital in Chicago) for their dehydration. The study participants were divided into two groups, one group received Zofran while the other was provided a placebo. Care was taken to ensure that same number of children were included in both the groups. Severely dehydrated children were excluded from the study.
Administration of Zofran was found to reduce the need for intravenous intervention or IV therapy. As little as 14% of the 107 children treated with Zofran needed intravenous fluid administration for treatment of dehydration, while 31% of those who received a placebo needed fluid replacement in the form of IV therapy.
'Children who received ondansetron had fewer episodes of vomiting, greater oral intake of fluids and a shorter stay in the emergency department. We were seeing physicians in private hospital emergency departments that were doing this for everybody,' said Stephen Freedman who led the research team.
The distinct advantage of administering Zofran is that it is more cost-effective than an IV treatment and prevents pain associated with needle picks, which is very valuable in children. For example, IV treatment of a child costs $125 at Children's Memorial Hospital, where the study was done. On the other hand, Zofran tablet, which is a quick dissolve formulation, costs $36 per tablet, substantially reducing the treatment cost.