Drug makers have lowered their sights and found children.
There are 187 medications for children being tested or awaiting government approval. That's a 28 percent increase in the number of drugs and vaccines under development a year ago, the Pharmaceutical Research & Manufacturers of America announced Wednesday.Among them are a brain cancer treatment, a vaccine to immunize children against middle ear infections and a medicine to prevent the flu with a nasal spray instead of a shot.
"Drug development in children has not been a big priority item for drug companies in the past," said Dr. John Siegfried, a Washington pediatrician and an adviser to the drug industry trade group.
"I find it both exciting and reassuring that finally there is some movement toward more pediatric drugs," he said Tuesday.
Cancer, vaccines, asthma, cystic fibrosis and AIDS-related disorders top drug makers' lists of children's treatments.
The drugs and vaccines are all designed to combat ailments that especially affect children or have previously received Food and Drug Administration approval for use only in adults.
Doctors routinely prescribe adult drugs to children, but drug companies are barred from marketing them as children's medicines or offering guidelines on doses for children. Once drugs are approved specifically for children, doctors have more information about them.
"As a pediatrician, what it really means is I don't have to be guessing about prescribing," Siegfried said.
More than 20 children's drugs that hit pharmacy shelves last year. Those drugs, already approved by the FDA, include a pediatric form of a protease inhibitor used in AIDS cocktails and medicines to treat cystic fibrosis, epilepsy and malformed infant lungs.