Pain Relief for Teenagers

Published on 30 August 2015

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the use of a powerful medication for pre-teens and teenagers. The opioid OxyContin, the extended-release formulation of oxycodone, can now be prescribed for children between 11 and 16. Goldie Peters, Pharm.D., BCPS, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at St. Louis College of Pharmacy, has read through the FDA’s report on Oxycontin so he’s prepared to make treatment recommendations to physicians and share the latest information with students at the College. Peters says there are a few things which stood out to him:

Patients Who Benefit

“There’s a small group of patients who will benefit from this news,” Peters says. “There are not a lot of serious trauma cases or major surgeries in this age group. Also, pediatric cancers are not the same as adult cancers when it comes to pain management.”

Motivation for Study

“It’s interesting that this was initiated by the FDA,” Peters says. “They saw a knowledge gap and asked the manufacturer to study dosing for younger patients. Before this, there was no specific research into dosing guidelines.”

Parent Education

“Just like adults using this medication, addiction and misuse is a serious concern,” Peters says. “Pharmacists are excellent patient educators. We, as members of the profession, have an obligation to take extra time with parents to talk about keeping the medication stored safely and disposed of properly after it’s no longer needed. Both prescribers and patients are right to be concerned about addiction. Managed properly, however, pain medication can be incredibly helpful to patients.”

Effect on the Teenage Body

“Even though there is a difference in metabolism and other body functions between a teenager and a person in their 30s or 40s, researchers found no difference in the way the teenage body processes the medication,” Peters says. “Side effects like decreased mental alertness, constipation, and respiratory depression (lowered breathing) are the same for all patients.”

After-Market Studies

“Part of the approval requires post-market studies,” Peters says. “The manufacturer is required to gather and analyze any reports of severe reactions. That may result in changes to the guidelines in the future.”

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