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Should Drugs Be Tested On Children?

Should Drugs Be Tested On Children?As legislators consider the fate of a law encouraging drug companies to test new drugs on children, experts debate the merits of the practice.

Boston [04.19.01] Since 1997, a federal law has encouraged pharmaceutical companies to test new drugs on children, prompting hundreds of clinical trials each year. Slated to expire this year, the law is now undergoing intense scrutiny by legislators and health experts.

Tufts' Christopher Milne -- the assistant director of Tufts' Center for the Study of Drug Development -- says the debate centers around a tough question: "test drugs in children or allow untested medications to be given to them."

"There is this dilemma as to which situation presents the most risk," Milne told the Los Angeles Times. "But I think the evidence is coming down on the side of testing these medications on children."

The reason, said Milne, is that clinical trials with children have proven to be invaluable to scientists.

Milne told the Times that the studies "are advancing the science of pediatric clinical trials." Citing research on anxiety in children, Milne said the trials have helped scientists develop new scales to measure the effectiveness of drugs in children.

"That had previously been a problem with getting drugs approved to treat pediatric anxiety," he said in the Times article, which also appeared in the Baltimore Sun. "You couldn't measure efficacy because the ratings scales were designed for adults."

He added that researchers have also learned a lot more about the appropriate doses of drugs for children.

"They're coming up with new sampling techniques that are less invasive and new ways to measure [results] that are more applicable to children," Milne said.

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