Children’s Cold Remedies: the Ethics of Not Doing Research

From Reuters: Don’t use cold drugs in kids under 4, industry says

Oral cough and cold medicines sold over the counter should not be used in children younger than 4 years old because of the risk of rare complications linked to inappropriate use, manufacturers said on Tuesday.

The move seems a good one. Maybe it’s step 1 towards action on the real issue:

Currently, the medicines are available under decades-old FDA rules that allow over-the-counter products to be sold without clinical trials showing their risks and benefits.

“The bottom line remains the same: that these products have never been proven to work in children,” said Diana Zuckerman, president of the National Research Center for Women & Families.

Two quick, relevant, rules of thumb for business ethics, rules that seem entirely relevant here:
1) Information asymmetry matters. If customers don’t understand what they’re getting, they’re not making fully voluntary purchases, and even the most zealous fans of free markets say that markets don’t work properly in the absence of reliable information. Parents almost certainly do not know that the safety & efficacy of these products have not necessarily been proven in clinical trials.
2) All the standards get cranked up a notch where kids are concerned.

~ by Nancy Walton on October 11, 2008.

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