Sweet Medicines Need Better Caps, Says Senator
Sweet Medicines Need Better Caps, Says Senator

NEW YORK—Sen. Chuck Schumer wants children’s liquid medicine bottles to be safer. Childproof safety caps aren’t enough, said the New York senator, who wants manufacturers to add flow restrictors to the necks of liquid medicine bottles. Liquid children’s medicine comes in fruity flavors to make it more palatable.

Every year emergency rooms treat 10,000 children for overdoses of liquid medicine such as children’s Tylenol and children’s Motrin. Around 20 of those children die from the overdose. Such deaths are completely preventable, according to pediatrician Joan Bregstein.

“This should be a never event, even one is too many,” said Bregstein, who practices at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Already this year she treated a toddler and a preschooler in the emergency room for overdoses of children’s liquid medicine. She told their stories at a press conference at Sen. Schumer’s Manhattan office Jan. 19.

Bregstein said the adorable young toddler was sitting on the floor in the living room. Her mother stepped away for a moment. When she returned the toddler had liquid Tylenol all down her shirt, all over the floor, and on her lips. How much the toddler had ingested was unclear. Anxious and concerned, her mother brought her to the emergency room. Exhaustive testing showed no overdose.

‘I drank it all!’

Another incident was of a chubby preschooler who had a fever. A family member gave him the appropriate dose of ibuprofen. His grandmother looked away for a moment, and when she turned back he gleefully said, “I drank it all!” He consumed 120 milliliters (ml) of ibuprofen, almost 10 times the recommended dose for his weight. Although he was all right in the end, it was a day of tests and IVs for him and stress for his parents. Dr. Bregstein said a twentyfold overdose could have caused liver damage, seizures, or coma.

For these youngsters, no harm was done. Even so, such an incident, “is a nightmare no parent wants to face,” said Sen. Schumer.

Schumer is asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) to make flow restrictors mandatory for all children’s liquid medicine.

Less Than a Dime

Many children’s medicine makers already install such flow restrictors, which are similar to those for hot sauce. The device costs less than a dime.

“What sold me on doing this is when I heard the cost,” said Schumer. He is getting behind the effort to require the flow restrictors after an in-depth report produced by ProPublica and Consumer Reports showed how affordable the devices are and how many children end up in the hospital after drinking too much liquid medicine.

“If you can avoid it, why not?” said Schumer.

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