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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Children: Buprenorphine Effects of Unintentional Exposure

English: Suboxone tablet - both sides.
Keeping medications out of the hands of children is something that can be easily managed; yet, every year there are thousands of accidental poisonings involving prescription drugs that can be lethal. Adults who become addicted to their pain medications will often turn to the drug buprenorphine to help the withdrawal process; unfortunately children are getting their hands on the drug.

Buprenorphine (or the buprenorphine-naloxone combination form) is usually sold as a tablet or film strip, the drug has been proven to be quite effective. However, during 2010-2011, an average of 1500 children under 6 years of age was evaluated in emergency departments each year due to unintentional exposure to buprenorphine. Buprenorphine can cause central nervous system depression, respiratory depression, and death in young children.

In a new study scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics, researchers study how young children are gaining access to buprenorphine, as well as the effects of unintentional exposure to its different formulations.

2380 cases of unintentional buprenorphine cases in any form involving children under 6 years of age were evaluated by Dr. Eric Lavonas and colleagues from the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center, the University of Colorado School of Medicine, the University of Oklahoma, Integris Baptist Medical Center, Degge Group, and Venebio Group.

The average age of the children was 2 years. Most children had good outcomes, 587 children were admitted to the intensive care unit and 4 children died.

Common effects of buprenorphine exposure were:
  • Lethargy
  • Respiratory Depression
  • Miosis (small pupils)
  • Vomiting
Dr. Lavonas says, "This study underscores the value of providing medications that are particularly dangerous when taken by children, in single dose, child resistant packaging." This approach is likely to be more effective at reducing unintentional exposure than additional efforts at education.

Medical News Today
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