Women who are very young or pregnant are two population groups who should almost never be prescribed general pharmaceuticals. This is because trials have never been carried out on the biochemical effects of drugs on a small and developing body or on a fetus.
Nevertheless, we know that doctors have been disregarding this guideline - attached to every pharmaceutical drug - by prescribing drugs to small children. Our researches have discovered that children as young as three years of age have been prescribed powerful antidepressants, a worrying practice that has been going on for at least 15 years.
Now, a new study has revealed that doctors are also regularly prescribing inappropriate drugs to pregnant women. No one has a clear idea of the extent of the problem, but researchers claim that 'substantial' numbers of pregnant women are being prescribed drugs that the drug companies know may harm the fetus.
In a review of the data for prescription-drug use among a group of 152,531 pregnant women between 1996 and 2000, it was found that 64 per cent of them had been prescribed a medication other than a vitamin or mineral supplement. Of these women, 40 per cent had taken a drug for which human safety during pregnancy had not been established. Worst of all, 5 per cent were prescribed a drug that was known to cause risk to the developing fetus (Am J Obstet Gynecol, 2004; 191: 398-407).