Bioethics Center to Research Drug Testing on Children


Seven-year-old Madison spends so much time in the hospital she can read her own vital signs. For now, a dialysis machine keeps her alive while she waits for a kidney transplant. She takes up to 11 different prescriptions, most of which have never been clinically tested on children. That’s not unusual.

About 80 percent of drugs used in children have never been tested in children.
~ Dr. Norman Fost

“About 80 percent of drugs used in children have never been tested in children,” said Dr. Norman Fost of the University of Wisconsin.

Fost, the former chair of the National Pediatrics Committee on Bioethics, said there are two main reasons: testing children is controversial, and, “drug companies have learned that that if they get a drug approved for adults that pediatricians will start prescribing it, even though it’s not been studied in children.”

But that may be changing in November 2004. A downtown Seattle building became the site for the first pediatric bioethics center in the country. It’s operated by Children’s Hospital.

Its first mission is to host a national summit this week to start building the framework for better research. Interim director Dr. Douglas Diekema said you only have to look to the past to understand the need.

“Where we have done things where we as a community were absolutely convinced would be good for children and they turned out not to be so,” he said.

Examples include giving preemies pure oxygen, which resulted in blindness, and being surprised by drug side effects that didn’t occur in adult but show up in children.

Diekema said only good research can remedy that.