NMA: Nonprescription Medicines Academy

Nonprescription Medications Involved in Many Unintentional Pediatric Overdoses

August 31st, 2009

Commonly available OTC products are involved in more than one third of unintentional pediatric overdoses that prompt emergency department visits each year, according to an analysis of data from the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS).

Schillie and colleagues used 2004 and 2005 data from the NEISS to estimate the number of emergency department visits among children 18 years of age or younger attributed to (1) unintentional medication overdoses or (2) poisoning from a nonpharmaceutical consumer product. “Medications” was defined to include prescription and nonprescription pharmaceuticals, vitamins, herbal products, and dietary supplements.

Based on 3,034 sample cases, an estimated 71,224 emergency department visits for medication overdoses were made annually, representing 68.9% of all emergency department visits studied. OTC acetaminophen, cough and cold medicines, NSAIDs, antihistamines, vitamins/minerals, aspirin, and other non-opioid analgesics were implicated in 33.9% of visits. Most visits (81.3%) involved children 5 years of age or younger; unsupervised ingestion was the overwhelming (82.2%) underlying cause. Medication errors and misuse were important causes of overdoses among adolescents 12 to 18 years of age, accounting for 28.4% and 56.6% of visits, respectively.
Am J Prev Med. 2009;37(3):181-7.

Author: Cynthia Knapp Dlugosz, BPharm