Safety of Medical Interventions in Children Versus Adults
OBJECTIVE: Compare the risk of harm from pharmacologic interventions in pediatric versus adult randomized controlled trials (RCTs).
METHODS: We used systematic reviews from the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. We considered separately 7 categories of harms/harm-related end points: severe harms, withdrawals due to harms, any harm, organ system–level harms, specific harms, withdrawals for any reason, and mortality. Systematic reviews with quantitative synthesis from at least 1 adult and 1 pediatric RCT for any of those end points were eligible. We calculated the summary odds ratio (experimental versus control intervention) in adult and pediatric trials/meta-analysis; the relative odds ratio (ROR) in adults versus children per meta-analysis; and the summary ROR (sROR) across all meta-analyses for each end point. ROR <1 means that the experimental intervention fared worse in children than adults.
RESULTS: We identified 176 meta-analyses for 52 types of harms/harm-related end points with 669 adult and 184 pediatric RCTs. Of those, 165 had sufficient data for ROR estimation. sRORs showed statistically significant discrepancy between adults and children only for headache (sROR 0.82; 95% confidence interval 0.70–0.96). Nominally significant discrepancies for specific harms were identified in 12 of 165 meta-analyses (RORs <1 in 7, ROR >1 in 5). In 36% of meta-analyses, the ROR estimates suggested twofold or greater differences between children and adults, and the 95% confidence intervals could exclude twofold differences only in 18% of meta-analyses.
CONCLUSIONS: Available evidence on harms/harm-related end points from pharmacologic interventions has large uncertainty. Extrapolation of evidence from adults to children may be tenuous. Some clinically important discrepancies were identified.
- Accepted December 2, 2013.
- Copyright © 2014 by the American Academy of Pediatrics