Children may soon be targeted by prescription drugs designed specifically for them - and, for once, the move hasn't come directly from the pharmaceutical companies.
The European Commission is ostensibly behind the move, and is said to be 'urging' drug companies to develop medicines that are suitable for children under the age of 16.
This would involve tailoring drugs and dosages that first would have to be tested on groups of children before receiving a licence for distribution. Drug companies in the USA have already taken the lead, and have carried out around 400 clinical trials in the last four years that have involved children.
The new drugs would be smaller so that children could swallow them more easily, and the dose would be appropriate, thus avoiding serious errors when adult dosages are adjusted.
Although the pharmaceutical industry is the most profitable sector in the world, the EU still feels it may need a little financial incentive to open up a whole new market, and is suggesting the creation of a special fund to encourage clinical research involving children.
As if that's not enough, the EU is also thinking up other attractions, such as the creation of longer periods of intellectual property protection to reward the companies that develop innovative drugs.
Drug companies have been invited to ponder the EU's largesse before draft legislation is prepared for release in the summer.
The EU might also consider that, as adverse reactions to drugs are now one of the world's major killers, putting our children at such risk may need a little more thought than just how we intend to reward the drug companies (BMJ, 2002; 324: 563).