November 8th 2007, 16:50
Last month, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) took the unprecedented step of requesting that pharmaceutical companies take a list of cold remedies for children off the market. Rarely has such a sweeping and categorical ban ever occurred, but the evidence surfacing regarding deaths related to these drugs has become difficult to ignore, even for an agency as fond of Big Pharma as the FDA. We can only hazard a guess as to the damning nature of the evidence that would prompt so sanguine a federal body as the FDA to take such action. But it's long overdue. As the Special Report in our latest issue reveals, many of the types of drugs routinely given to adults-antibiotics, asthma drugs, painkillers, cold and cough medicines-are highly dangerous to children and, more shockingly, have never ever been tested in any basic way to ensure that they are either safe or effective for this age group.
How could such a situation arise, considering all the regulatory bodies in the US and Europe? The answer lies in the medical model of children. Until recently, doctors operated under the assumption that a fetus, a baby, even a young child, wasn't yet human-not in the fully formed sense of the word. In this view, as babies and young children don't develop certain nerve receptors until age seven, they don't, for instance, feel pain. We now know that idea to be completely fallacious-a fetus is as exquisitely sensitive as you or me. However, that mindset-that a child isn't yet a proper human being-has enabled medicine to deny children the most basic regulatory protection.