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Clin Ther. 2015 Sep 1;37(9):1924-32. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2015.08.006. Epub 2015 Aug 29.

Gaps in Drug Dosing for Obese Children: A Systematic Review of Commonly Prescribed Emergency Care Medications.

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Department of Pediatrics, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, Bethesda, Maryland.
Department of Pediatrics, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina; Duke Clinical Research Institute, Durham, North Carolina. Electronic address:



Approximately 1 of 6 children in the United States is obese. This has important implications for drug dosing and safety because pharmacokinetic (PK) changes are known to occur in obesity due to altered body composition and physiologic mechanisms. Inappropriate drug dosing in an emergency setting can limit therapeutic efficacy and increase drug-related toxic effects for obese children. Few systematic reviews examining PK properties and drug dosing in obese children have been performed.


We identified 25 emergency care drugs from the Strategic National Stockpile and Acute Care Supportive Drugs List and performed a systematic review for each drug in 3 study populations: obese children (2-18 years of age), normal weight children, and obese adults (aged >18 years). For each study population, we first reviewed a drug's Food and Drug Administration label and then performed a systematic literature review. From the literature, we extracted drug PK data, biochemical properties, and dosing information. We then reviewed data in 3 age subpopulations (2-7 years, 8-12 years, and 13-18 years) for obese and normal weight children and by route of drug administration (intramuscular, intravenous, oral, and inhaled). If sufficient PK data were not available by age and route of administration, a data gap was identified.


Only 2 of 25 emergency care drugs (8%) contained dosing information on the Food and Drug Administration label for obese children and adults compared with 22 of 25 (88%) for normal weight children. We found no sufficient PK data in the literature for any of the emergency care drugs in obese children. Sufficient PK data were found for 7 of 25 emergency care drugs (28%) in normal weight children and 3 of 25 (12%) in obese adults.


Insufficient information exists to guide dosing in obese children for any of the emergency care drugs reviewed. This knowledge gap is alarming, given the known PK changes that occur in the setting of obesity. Future clinical trials examining the PK properties of emergency care medications in obese children should be prioritized.


children; emergency care; obesity; pharmacokinetics

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