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Keywords:

  • adverse drug reactions;
  • child;
  • meta-analysis;
  • prospective studies;
  • systematic review

Aims  To explore the usefulness of data derived from observational studies on adverse drug reactions (ADRs) in defining and preventing the risk of pharmacological interventions in children in different health care settings.

Methods  A systematic review of studies on ADRs in hospitalized children, in outpatient children, and on ADRs causing paediatric hospital admissions was performed. Studies were identified through a search of the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. The inclusion criteria required that the population was not selected for particular conditions or drug exposure and prospective monitoring was used for identifying ADRs. Data were analysed by a random-effects model.

Results  Seventeen prospective studies were included. In hospitalized children, the overall incidence of ADRs was 9.53% (95% confidence interval [CI], 6.81,12.26); severe reactions accounted for 12.29% (95%CI, 8.43,16.17) of the total. The overall rate of paediatric hospital admissions due to ADRs was 2.09% (95%CI, 1.02,3.77); 39.3% (95%CI, 30.7,47.9) of the ADRs causing hospital admissions were life threatening reactions. For outpatient children the overall incidence of ADRs was 1.46% (95%CI, 0.7,3.03).

Conclusions  The results show that ADRs in children are a significant public health issue. The completeness and accuracy of prescription reporting as well as clinical information from studies was a rarity, making it difficult for health practitioners to implement evidence based preventive strategies. Further, methodologically sound drug surveillance studies are necessary for an effective promotion of a safer use of drugs in children.