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PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e46022. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0046022. Epub 2012 Oct 10.

Enhancing communication about paediatric medicines: lessons from a qualitative study of parents' experiences of their child's suspected adverse drug reaction.

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  • 1Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom.



There is little research on parents' experiences of suspected adverse drug reactions in their children and hence little evidence to guide clinicians when communicating with families about problems associated with medicines.


To identify any unmet information and communication needs described by parents whose child had a suspected adverse drug reaction.


Semi-structured qualitative interviews with parents of 44 children who had a suspected adverse drug reaction identified on hospital admission, during in-patient treatment or reported by parents using the Yellow Card Scheme (the UK system for collecting spontaneous reports of adverse drug reactions). Interviews were conducted face-to-face or by telephone; most interviews were audiorecorded and transcribed. Analysis was informed by the principles of the constant comparative method.


Many parents described being dissatisfied with how clinicians communicated about adverse drug reactions and unclear about the implications for their child's future use of medicines. A few parents felt that clinicians had abandoned their child and reported refusing the use of further medicines because they feared a repeated adverse drug reaction. The accounts of parents of children with cancer were different. They emphasised their confidence in clinicians' management of adverse drug reactions and described how clinicians prospectively explained the risks associated with medicines. Parents linked symptoms to medicines in ways that resembled the established reasoning that clinicians use to evaluate the possibility that a medicine has caused an adverse drug reaction.


Clinicians' communication about adverse drug reactions was poor from the perspective of parents, indicating that improvements are needed. The accounts of parents of children with cancer indicate that prospective explanation about adverse drug reactions at the time of prescription can be effective. Convergence between parents and clinicians in their reasoning for linking children's symptoms to medicines could be a starting point for improved communication.

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