Sat. April 17, 2010
Some parents and health care workers often use fractions of tablets, meant for adults, for children when they are sick. This is done by crushing tablets or dissolving portions of capsules in water for sick children.
The practice, according to health professionals could be unsafe and may result in prolonged illness to these children since certain conditions such as the age of a child, her physical condition and weight come into play when preparing medicines for children.
To improve access to life-saving medicines for children, the Ghana National Drugs Programme (GNDP) of the Ministry of Health has put in place measures to assess the current situation of children’s medicines in the country in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO), through “the Better Medicines for Children’s Project”.
The project was inaugurated in Accra on Thursday on the theme “Meeting the Millennium Development Goals; the Case for Better Medicine for Children”.
In a speech read on his behalf by the Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Elias K. Sory, the Minister of Health, Dr Benjamin Kunbour, said the practice where medicines meant for adults were given to children affected the manner in which these medicines must work to perform the expected function, thus the health outcomes of the children taking these medicines were affected.
He noted that children especially infants within the first 30 days of life needed special care because at that age, the risk of toxicity was increased by inefficient renal filtration, relative enzyme deficiencies, different sensitivities to target organs and inadequate detoxifying systems which might cause delayed excretion from the child’s system.
Dr Kunbour said better medicines for children in Ghana must, therefore, become a reality because children, and particularly new born babies (neonates), differed from adults in their response to medicines.
In order to correct the above mentioned problem, the Better Medicine for Children’s Project would seek to address issues bearing on: Local manufacturing capacity for medicine formulation appropriate for children; price differentials on child specific medicines, as well as supply and distribution of child specific medicines, among others.
“The Better Medicine for Children in Ghana Project thus seeks to address health systems issues in Ghana with emphasis on the medicines component. This project ensures access to safe and effective child friendly medicines for selected priority disease areas in Ghana”, the Health Minister indicated.
The Programme Manager of the GNDP, Mrs Martha Gyansa-Lutterodt, said the project would improve access to child specified medicines in the sector and their rational use, adding that the design of the project was tailored to fit within the country perspective by close alignment with the child health policy of Ghana.
She indicated that the project would determine if medicines such as amoxicillin, zinc, anti-malarial and other key medicines for children were available in appropriate dosage forms in health facilities across Ghana.
A statement issued during the event indicated that the medicines that could easily be dissolved in water or sprinkled on food for children were ideal. It said “In most cases these medicines are cheaper than liquid medicines and do not require refrigeration or difficult measuring”.
Quoting from a report of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the statement indicated that each year more than nine million children aged under five died globally and in Ghana about, 81,000 children died, all through diseases which could have been treated with safe essential child-specific medicines.
In the statement, the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative in Ghana, Dr Daniel Kertesz, said “We are pleased to have the opportunity to work with Ghana on this project, as there have been several important developments here already, particularly, regarding the implementation of health insurance, and the strengthening of the Food and Drugs Board. We look forward to building on these achievements to ensure Better Medicines for Children”.
For his part, the Chief Pharmacist, Mr James Ohemeng Kyei, expressed the hope that the project would help to prevent the death of children which could occur through the administration of adult medicines to children adding that “For each under-five mortality that we prevent through appropriate health interventions, we produce a potential leader”.