Paediatric pharmacotherapy and drug regulation: Moving past the therapeutic orphan
British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
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The development of specific drug therapy for children was a paradigm-changing event that transformed paediatric medical practice. However, a series of tragedies involving drug treatment for children resulted in a gap developing between drug regulation and practice, with the majority of drugs used in child healthcare being used off-label, rendering children therapeutic orphans. Over the past two decades changes in drug regulation led by the US Food and Drug Administration and followed by the European Union's European Medicines Agency have led to substantial changes in how new drugs with potential use in children are studied and labelled. While these changes have substantially improved labelling for new drugs, there has been much less progress with older drugs. Although the unique challenges of conducting clinical research in children have been addressed by novel clinical trial designs, many of these innovations have not been translated into approaches accepted for the drug approval process. The regulations applying to the need for paediatric studies currently are only applicable in the United States and the European Union, and there is less impetus for paediatric labelling in other jurisdictions. This impacts on a number of issues beyond labelling, including the availability of child-friendly formulations. Finally, the impact of Brexit on paediatric drug studies in the UK remains unclear and is subject to ongoing negotiations between the UK government and the European Union.