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Drug Saf. 2011 May 1;34(5):415-28. doi: 10.2165/11587540-000000000-00000.

Suspected adverse drug reactions reported for children worldwide: an exploratory study using VigiBase.

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Uppsala Monitoring Centre, WHO Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring, Uppsala, Sweden.



As a first step towards implementing routine screening of safety issues specifically related to children at the Uppsala Monitoring Centre, this study was performed to explore reporting patterns of adverse reactions in children.


The first aim of this study was to characterize and contrast child reports against adult reports in an overall drug and adverse reaction review. The second aim was to highlight increases in reporting of specific adverse reactions during recent years subdivided by age group.


This was an exploratory study of internationally compiled individual case safety reports (ICSRs).


Reports were extracted from the WHO global ICSR database, VigiBase, up until 5 February 2010. The reports in VigiBase originate from 97 countries and the likelihood that a medicine caused the adverse effect may vary from case to case. Suspected duplicate and vaccine reports were excluded from the analysis, as were reports with age not specified. The Medical Dictionary for Regulatory Activities (MedDRA®) and the WHO Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical (ATC) classification were used to group adverse reactions and drugs.


In the general review, reports from 1968 to 5 February 2010 were divided into child (aged 0-17 years) and adult (≥ 18 years) age groups. To highlight increases in reporting rates of specific adverse reactions during recent years, reports from 2005 to February 2010 were compared with reports from 1995 to 1999. The ten adverse reactions with the greatest difference in the proportion of reports between the two time periods were reviewed. In the latter analysis, the reports were subdivided into age groups: neonates ≤ 27 days; infants 28 days-23 months; children 2-11 years; and adolescents 12-17 years.


A total of 3,472,183 reports were included in the study, of which 7.7% (268,145) were reports for children (0-17 years). Fifty-three percent of the child reports were for males, whilst 39% of reports in the adult group were for males. The proportion of reports involving children among Asian reports was 14% and was 15% among reports from Africa and Latin America, including the Caribbean. Among reports from North America, Oceania and Europe, 7% of the reports involved children. For the ATC drug classification groups, the largest difference in percentage units between the child and adult groups was seen for the anti-infective (33 vs 15%), respiratory (11 vs 5%) and dermatological (12 vs 7%) drug groups. Skin reactions were most commonly reported for the children; these were recorded in 35% of all reports for children and 23% of all reports for adults. Medication error-related terms in the younger age groups were reported with an increased frequency during recent years. This was particularly noticeable for the infants aged 28 days-23 months, recorded with accidental overdose and drug toxicity. Reactions reported in suspected connection to medicines used for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD) completely dominated the 2- to 11-year age group and were also common for the adolescents. This study presents variations in the reporting pattern in different age groups in VigiBase which, in some cases, could be due to susceptibilities to specific drug-related problems in certain age groups. Other likely explanations might be common drug usage and childhood diseases in these age groups.


Reports in VigiBase received internationally for more than 40 years reflect real concerns for children taking medicines. The study highlights adverse reactions with an increased reporting during recent years, particularly those connected to the introduction of ADHD medicines in the child population. To enhance patient safety, medication errors indicating administration and dosing difficulties of drugs, especially in the younger age groups, require further attention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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