Every day, parents serve as advocates for their children, and yet too often when it comes to health matters, many unconditionally trust doctors’ opinions and treatment plans. You should trust your pediatrician and listen to what he or she advises, but you must also be your child's advocate.
It is important that parents be proactive whenever their kids are prescribed drugs. Mom and Dad need to feel comfortable with the medications they give their children, knowledgeable about any potential side effects, and aware of signs and symptoms to watch for if a reaction does occur. By gaining a little background, parents can make sound decisions about these medications.
Do the Research
Here are four tips for gathering all the important information you need about your child’s medication:
- Start with Your Doctor: While doctors are experts in matters of health and wellness, the job of a parent is to speak up on behalf of her child, especially if she has a concern. Ask as many questions as necessary to feel comfortable giving your child the prescribed medication. Ask about known side effects, studies done on the drug itself, and what to watch for when your child begins taking the medication. Your doctor should be able to answer your questions and provide you with additional literature or resources, if you ask.
- Read All of the Provided Information and Remember the Pharmacist: It’s important that you read all of the health information provided on — and with — the medication. Those pages of data and information are there to help you understand how the medicine may affect your child’s overall health, not just the symptoms it was prescribed to treat. If anything you read raises a red flag in your mind, talk to the pharmacist. He or she is a solid, reliable source of information regarding side effects, drug interactions, and alternatives.
- Consult with a Reliable Online Source: There are numerous online resources about health, medicine, and even scary side effects. Sift through those to find trustworthy resources. Begin with the FDA website, which provides information on many — but not all — drugs. The Index to Drug Specific Information has a list of all FDA-monitored medications, along with the information related to those drugs. MedWatch is an FDA program specifically established for drug safety information and adverse event reporting.You could also look at state government websites, which keep up-to-date lists of recalled medications. Consumer Reports has a team of medical experts that review different drugs and then present a summary of the best drugs for different ailments. The MHRA, or Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, is a U.K.-based agency that also supplies a great deal of information regarding medicine and product safety.
- Seek a Second Opinion: If you have concerns about a medication that was prescribed to your child, it may be best to seek a second opinion. A different doctor might have a fresh idea for treatment, may prescribe a different medication upon hearing your concerns, or may simply be able to put your mind at ease by assuring you of the medicine’s safety and effectiveness.
If a Side Effect Occurs
If you discover your child has or is currently taking a medication that has been found to have a harmful side effect, you should immediately seek consultation from a physician. Some side effects are immediate — as with allergic reactions — whereas some take longer to manifest in the body. The most important thing is to take all the necessary steps to treat or prevent subsequent health issues.
In some cases, you might want to contact an attorney. A lawyer will be able to review your child’s medical records to determine whether there is a relationship between the medication consumed and the effects observed. A qualified attorney can also tell you if a medication is currently part of a lawsuit, and if not, can review the FDA data and clinical trials to see if any side effects were left off the product label.
Be an advocate for your child’s health. Research each medicine your child is prescribed. If you don’t feel the benefits outweigh the risks, speak up. Knowledge is the key to making fully informed decisions.
Michael Acosta is a partner at Acosta & Williams LLC. As an attorney, he specializes in the areas of pharmaceutical litigation, personal injury, premises liability, auto and truck accidents, toxic torts, property and air contamination, and wrongful death. He is licensed to practice in the courts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.